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Excercise prepares Vandenberg Airmen for deployment

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Senior Airman Kevin Graves, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron, takes a break after practicing to field strip an M-16 rifle during a North Star exercise on Aug. 23.  North Star is designed to teach Airmen the combat skills needed while deployed. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christian Thomas)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Senior Airman Kevin Graves, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron, takes a break after practicing to field strip an M-16 rifle during a North Star exercise on Aug. 23. North Star is designed to teach Airmen the combat skills needed while deployed. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christian Thomas)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Senior Airman Jason Levy, 614th Space Communications Squadron, dons his gas mask during a chemical attack exercise during North Star on Aug. 23. North Star is designed to teach Airmen the combat skills needed while deployed. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christian Thomas)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Senior Airman Jason Levy, 614th Space Communications Squadron, dons his gas mask during a chemical attack exercise during North Star on Aug. 23. North Star is designed to teach Airmen the combat skills needed while deployed. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christian Thomas)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Staff Sgt. Kaohilii Romualdo and Staff Sgt. Christopher Basinger, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron, look over the Airman's Manual during the North Star exercise on Aug. 23.  North Star is designed to teach Airmen the combat skills needed while deployed. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christian Thomas)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Staff Sgt. Kaohilii Romualdo and Staff Sgt. Christopher Basinger, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron, look over the Airman's Manual during the North Star exercise on Aug. 23. North Star is designed to teach Airmen the combat skills needed while deployed. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christian Thomas)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Airmen participating in a North Star exercise learn how to field strip the M-16 rifle on Aug. 23.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christian Thomas)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Airmen participating in a North Star exercise learn how to field strip the M-16 rifle on Aug. 23. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christian Thomas)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Airmen participating in a North Star exercise call out the names of their team members before in processing on Aug. 23.  North Star is designed to teach Airmen the combat skills needed while deployed. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christian Thomas)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Airmen participating in a North Star exercise call out the names of their team members before in processing on Aug. 23. North Star is designed to teach Airmen the combat skills needed while deployed. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christian Thomas)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Airmen participating in a North Star exercise wait in line to be in processed on Aug. 23. North Star is designed to teach Airmen the combat skills needed while deployed. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christian Thomas)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Airmen participating in a North Star exercise wait in line to be in processed on Aug. 23. North Star is designed to teach Airmen the combat skills needed while deployed. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christian Thomas)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Senior Airman Tommy Thongkham, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron, waits for the next scenario to begin during North Star on Aug. 23.  North Star is designed to teach Airmen the combat skills needed while deployed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christian Thomas)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Senior Airman Tommy Thongkham, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron, waits for the next scenario to begin during North Star on Aug. 23. North Star is designed to teach Airmen the combat skills needed while deployed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christian Thomas)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Approximately 93 Airmen representing almost every squadron on base deployed Aug. 22 to an off-base location for a North Star field training exercise.

"The purpose of North Star is to train like we fight," said Capt. Jennifer Holthaus, 30th Space Wing IG chief of inspection exercises. "When we are deployed, we need to be prepared for whatever is thrown at us."

The deployed Airmen completed a four-hour course before the evaluation started. Participants were given demonstrations on how to move under fire, weapons familiarization and self-aid and buddy care.

After the demonstration training, the evaluation began and the Airmen set up camp and began engaging in scenarios.

"This is an exercise that we take very seriously. Things that Airmen learn here could potentially save lives in a deployed location," Captain Holthaus said.

"ATSO," said Sam Treat, 30th Space Wing Inspector General evaluations and inspections specialist. "The ability to survive and operate, that's what North Star is all about."

The Airmen in the exercise experienced mortar attacks, small ground forces attacks, enemy prisoner of war, and other psychological warfare.

The exercise is not just a chance for Airmen to play war, but a real learning experience.

"We want the Airmen to be able to use muscle memory when they are deployed," said Mr. Treat. "The scenarios we throw at them are all covered in the Airman's Manual."

"This exercise was unique in that we had a very young group," he said. "A lot of the Airmen have yet to deploy."

Training exercises like North Star not only allow the wing commander the ability to see how combat ready the wing is, but they are also mandated through Air Force Instruction 10-403.

Every unit training code has to annually participate in an evaluation to ensure that its members are ready for deployment, said Mr. Treat.

This exercise shows us the areas that Vandenberg needs to work on to better prepare Airmen for further air expeditionary deployments.

As the Air Force moves to a more combat oriented force, exercises like North Star will become more important to achieve the overall mission of the Air Force to fly, fight and win.

The next North Star exercise will be Dec. 12-14.