JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq: Airmen from the 532nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron jumped in and out of helicopters from the Army C Company, 1-137th Aviation Regiment during air-assault training here May 23.
“The purpose of air-assault training is to add another option of infiltrating a targeted area,” said Master Sgt. Jose Zuniga, 532nd ESFS quick reaction force NCO in charge.
“In QRF operations, whether proactive or reactive, the elements of speed and surprise can be critical to a successful mission as terrain can be a limiting factor,” he said.
Overall, the quick reaction force team’s mission is to respond to attacks against Joint Base Balad. Usually, the quick reaction force uses combat vehicles to respond to indirect-fire attacks, but now they are training to respond via helicopters to increase response time and security.
“This training will allow us to have an aerial capability and aid us in a faster response,” said Staff Sgt. Ryan Burke, a 532nd ESFS truck commander and quick reaction force member. “If we can come out here and get spun up in a helicopter, we can get to an area quicker than driving there by vehicle.
“Also, this training gives us basic aircraft familiarization,” added the Cincinnati native deployed from Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. “We are going to learn entry, exit and operation measures. We are going to be going through the drills on how to tactically deploy from the aircraft.”
While up in the air, Sergeant Burke said the quick reaction force team learned terrain familiarization.
“We can pick out target reference points, so we can show personnel a different view and give more specific directions,” he said. “As a truck commander, I’m able to see visual maps every day, and I can tell my troops where to drive with specifics from the map. In this training, I can learn different reference points like a water treatment facility or a bend in a river and give them (troops) more specifics on the route to take.”
During the training, two helicopters loaded with approximately 20 quick reaction force members took off and performed multiple touch downs to deploy the team and then take off again.
“For training, the scenario was to pretend as if we were getting dropped off outside the wire responding to an attack,” said Staff Sgt. Cliff Rood, a 532nd ESFS truck commander and quick reaction force member. “The helicopter would swoop down, we would dismount the aircraft, go prone and take up security. The helicopter would then depart, and we would go about our simulated mission.”
After conducting air-assault training multiple times, the 1-137th Aviation Regiment helicopters circled Joint Base Balad to give the Airmen a viewpoint of outside-the-wire terrain and reference points, before landing back down on the helicopter pad upon training completion.
“The training went extremely well as the integration of Army aircrews and Air Force security forces was seamless,” Sergeant Zuniga said. “The practical application and hands-on training provided the realism and experience necessary to support the quick reaction force mission.”
“It was an awesome experience,” Sergeant Burke said. “Getting the opportunity to deploy out of a helicopter is definitely exhilarating.”
Sergeant Rood agreed.
“It was also great to do this with my fellow 532nd ESFS members, especially since it was the first time for most of us,” said Sergeant Rood, a native of Albuquerque, N.M., and deployed from Kirtland AFB. “There are plans for us to do air-assault training a few more times during our deployment to keep us prepared to respond to indirect-fire attacks.”