Oklahoma Air Guardsmen get down and dirty with debris clearance

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Justin Creech
  • 137th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Debris clearance teams from the 137th Civil Engineering Squadron in Oklahoma City and 138th Fighter Wing CES in Tulsa kicked up dust and rubble while moving large concrete blocks, tree trunks and limbs during a debris clearance training at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma, Oct. 19-23, 2015.

The primary goal for the training was the familiarization of Airmen with the equipment they will use during a real-world emergency that requires a large amount of debris clearance. Airmen spent the week wielding chainsaws, concrete saws, bolt cutters, shovels and sledgehammers, and controlled compact tractors.

"Everyone who came out, with the exception of a couple of Airmen, is a traditional Guardsman," said 1st Lt. Steven Kroll, 137 CES section officer in charge. "So, they don't always have the opportunity to train with the equipment."

Day one of the training entailed classroom instruction to familiarize Airmen with the equipment. Two teams of 10, which were a mixture of personnel from each wing, were assembled and sent to separate locations to set up the scenario for the other team to work through. 

The team-oriented training provided Airmen with the opportunity to work side-by-side with personnel from their sister wing. This cooperative training allows for better team work during a real-world disaster recovery effort. 

"It's important for our teams to build relationships," said Maj. Jason Ives, 138 CES commander. "This training is a perfect opportunity to do that. It makes for a more cohesive team in a real life situation."

Along with clearing large concrete blocks, tree trunks and limbs, the teams also had to clear large pieces of steel, said Kroll. Each team had a variation of this debris at their clearing location and was able to clear their respective sites quickly.

"It was a little bit of a competition to see who could make it the most difficult for the other team," said Kroll. "Each team cleared their site in less than an hour, which is very impressive."

The teams were also tutored on working with civilian fire departments. Master Sgt. Todd Lambert, 137th Fire Department deputy fire chief is also a volunteer with the Bridge Creek, Oklahoma, Fire Department. Lambert attended the training to teach each team some of the differences in the language and processes they will encounter when working with a civilian fire department.

"In the military, we track everything by the minute with the Emergency Operations Center," said Lambert. "It doesn't always happen that way in the civilian world. The incident commander is just going to tell you 'go here and do this, and don't call me until it is done.'"

This training event marked the first time the 137th and 138th CES Debris Clearance Teams have had an opportunity to work together. While observing each team's ability to use the equipment and clear each site in a timely manner, Kroll felt confident in the abilities of the teams, should they be faced with a real-world disaster recovery situation.

"Our teams exceeded our expectations for this trip," said Kroll. "I feel very good about their ability to replicate the efficiency they showed this week in a real-life situation."