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Airmen refresh on important combat skills at North Star

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Senior Airman Christopher Wilson of the 381st Training Squadron helps tie down a tent during the North Star Exercise here Dec. 11.(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Hubenthal)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Senior Airman Christopher Wilson of the 381st Training Squadron helps tie down a tent during the North Star Exercise here Dec. 11.(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Hubenthal)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Concentrating down the shaft of his M16 assault rifle, the Airman patiently gains sight through the cloud of dust that was kicked up while he moved to a prone defensive position behind a stack of sand bags. Asplintering sound was heard from the brush ahead and sets him on high alert. Suddenly, movement breaks the once calm wooded area and out emerges a man with a weapon draped over his shoulder. Anxious and ready for the worst, the Airman goes through the procedures for unrecognized personnel entering his area of responsibility. 

"Halt, who goes there?" promptly exclaims Senior Airman Vicente Valdovinos, a cyber systems technician from the 381st Training Support Squadron. 

The armed intruder stops, though stunned, he awaits further instructions. 

"Drop your weapon and proceed to the sound of my voice," said the Airman. 

The intruder cooperates. Un-slinging the rifle over his shoulder to the grass he walks toward the Airman. 

"Stop," howls the Airman. "Lie down on your stomach and spread both of your arms and legs." 

Still obliging with the Airman's request, the intruder drops to his knees. He lies out flat on his stomach and spreads his arms and legs apart. 

Just before the Airman could enjoy a sigh of relief, the intruder leaped up to his feet and made a beeline exit toward the wooded area he came. 

Red flags waved in the Airman's mind, but he kept his composure and did not use his weapon on the fleeing intruder because he was taught never to fire upon the unarmed. And that quick thinking successfully concluded part of an exercise. 

Airman Valdovinos was a part of Vandenberg's quarterly North Star field training exercise. 

Approximately 60 Airmen from numerous units on base set up camp at a remote, off base location to simulate an environment much like one an Airman might see on a deployment. North Star began Dec. 9 and finished Dec. 12. 

During the exercise the Airmen were evaluated by the Exercise Evaluation Team and learned basic techniques such as combat operations, rules of engagement and weapons familiarization. 

"The training and the evaluations we provide at North Star is just to make sure that our Airmen are ready are prepared to deploy," said Master Sgt. Jeffery Jones, an instructor and member of the EET from the 30th Security Forces Squadron. "The hands-on experience we present out here is very beneficial for the Airmen." 

The Airmen of North Star get evaluated on a multitude of different scenarios that teach them how to react in hostile environments. During one point in the exercise, the Airmen go through a circuit of challenges. 

"We set up five different stations to test our Airmen," said Sergeant Jones. "The Airmen must look for weapons and contraband at a vehicle search station. The Airmen get familiar with their weapons during the M16 break down and assembly station. They then practice rules of engagement out of a Defense Fighting Position station, then the Airmen are tasked to give a SALUTE report before moving onto the last station, where they practice sign and counter-sign drills." 

"The training we get out here is a good refresher from Basic Military Training, especially for the people who are getting ready to deploy," said Airman Valdovinos. "It is good to know what to do in any given situation. Anytime Airmen have to practice these skills, they should. It will ultimately only benefit them."