JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas --
37th Training Wing personnel participated in a bivouac exercise Feb 12 - 13, at the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training (BEAST) site at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland-Medina Annex, Texas.
The first of its kind, 36-hour exercise focused on instilling the air expeditionary mindset, building individual and team confidence, and identifying training needs in an effort to promote Comprehensive Airman Fitness, improve readiness, and foster stronger relationships across the wing.
“All levels of leadership were represented in this exercise,” said Kevin Oliver, 37th Training Wing Self-Assessment Program Manager and exercise organizer. “Participants included new-to-the-force Airmen, experienced technical and basic military training instructors, and seasoned commanders.”
Over the course of the exercise, participants practiced weapons handling, self-aid buddy care, and dismounted patrol missions, while demonstrating their ability to survive and operate in a hostile environment. To cap off the event, exercise participants completed the Creating Leaders, Airmen, Warriors (CLAW) obstacle course.
“It was great to be out there honing our skills as a unit,” said Capt. Shawn Graves, 322d Training Squadron flight commander. “The CLAW is no joke, and all the skills we learned here are crucial aspects of readiness.”
The exercise also aimed to instill mental toughness and highlight the importance of joint warfighting by welcoming and integrating distinguished guest, retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Brian “Tosh” Chontosh. Chontosh earned the Navy Cross for his extraordinary heroism in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he displayed decisive leadership, unlimited courage in the face of heavy enemy fire, and utmost devotion to duty. Throughout the bivouac, he embedded himself into each flight and provided mentorship and feedback on various expeditionary objectives. His motivating speech focused on the importance of maintaining a readiness mindset.
“A true professional puts mood aside and focuses on immediate action and doing the next right thing,” said Chontosh. “You can never know if the decision you’re about to make is going to be the right one, but you have to practice high-stakes situations enough that your immediate response becomes decisive action. Your mind has to be trained the same way you train your muscle memory.”
While decision-making is a vital aspect of a readiness, trusting in and looking out for others is equally important.
“Part of being a team is having each other’s backs,” said Chontosh. “That means looking out for them, but also trusting in their capabilities. This isn’t a solo fight; we’re all part of a team.”
With Chontosh’s speech, demanding physical exercises, and technical challenges, this exercise fit right into the overall strategic goals of the Air Force.
“Readiness is the Secretary of the Air Force’s number one priority,” said Col. Jason Janaros, 37th Training Wing commander. “Unit readiness starts in the heart of individual Airmen, our ultimate weapon system. This exercise, which was focused exclusively on our permanent party personnel, will set us up for future success. You train and make mistakes in this environment so you won’t make mistakes in the combat environment.”
“Given the short planning window and lack of precedent, this exercise was an incredible success,” said Janaros, “and it’s the first of many more to come. Caring, professional, and ready warrior Airmen aren’t built behind a keyboard. We’ve got such a great environment out here at BEAST and we’re going to take advantage of it. Our collective goal is to build hard targets – more ready, more lethal Airmen who are prepared for the challenges they might face downrange or even downtown. Whether it's a lifesaving endeavor on the side of the road, defending themselves or a loved one, or facing a personal hardship, we’ve got to be prepared, and that all goes back to instilling and maintaining a readiness mindset.”