Are You Ready?

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- We serve in an aerospace expeditionary force and we are often called on short-notice to deploy in our nation's defense. Our ability to rapidly deploy is dependent on our readiness status. There are three key ingredients required for a successful deployment: training, physical fitness and supervisory involvement. These key ingredients are the driving force for our readiness status.

The Air Force provides several platforms to ensure we are trained for our wartime mission. The most common platform is computer-based training. While CBTs do not involve hands-on training or elaborate temporary duty locations, they offer critical education to execute the mission.

Make no mistake, the Chemical Biological Radioactive Nuclear Explosive training is vital for those deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. This course will ensure you are prepared for the unconventional strategies implemented by our enemy as well as thinking twice before picking up a battlefield souvenir.

Another training platform is instructor-based training. Most Airmen receive advanced Combat Skills Training courses from military instructors as well as advanced technical skills training from other Department of Defense agencies prior to deploying.

Regardless of the platform, these courses ensure you are prepared to operate within a combat environment, administer critical first aid, and engage the enemy.

While training is important for readiness, I can not over-emphasize the importance of physical fitness. Our state of physical conditioning determines our ability to work virtually nonstop over several days or on little sleep over several months. Ultimately, it determines our ability to accomplish the demands of our wartime mission. While a 75 is the minimum passing score for your fitness evaluation, the true test is measured during your deployment. In addition to working 12 to 18-hour days, our Airmen operating outside the wire are required to carry well over 50 pounds of gear to perform their daily duties. We must also be physically fit to deal with the extreme weather conditions and perform during a crisis situation that may require you to carry a wounded Airman over a long distance for medical care.

I urge all Airmen who are satisfied with the minimum standards to reconsider their personal fitness goals and think about the consequences of your score on our wartime mission.

The final ingredient for an outstanding readiness level is supervisory involvement. Supervisors must have cognizance of their Airman's readiness status to include their technical skills, physical fitness and mental state of health.

As a supervisor, you must be proactive on all three areas with special emphasis on your Airman's mental health. According to the Enlisted Force Structure, AFI 36-2618, supervisors are often in the best position to detect early indications of personal, financial, marital, alcohol and stress related problems. Supervisors are key to identifying, addressing and resolving these issues.

Additionally, supervisors must be engaged with their Airman's technical skills and physical fitness status. The best way to deal with these matters is to simply lead by example. So before you counsel your Airman for falling behind on their CBTs or failing their fitness evaluations, make sure you are in compliance with training requirements and fitness standards.

I would like to share a conversation I recently had with one of my Airmen, Senior Airman Eduardo Zamora, who was deployed to Iraq for nearly a year. When reflecting on his deployment, Airman Zamora noted that his training, physical fitness and supervisor's involvement were essential while responding to a CH-46 helicopter that crashed in the 300-foot deep, cholera-filled waters of Lake Quadisiya, Iraq. Airman Zamora's physical conditioning ensured he was able to swim in 50-degree frigid waters to recover his injured Wingmen. His CST training enabled him and his team to provide first aid without hesitation as the crew was pulled out of the lake. Finally, his supervisor ensured he was mentally prepared for the mission and their team was responsible for saving the lives of 10 of the 14 passengers. For his heroic actions, he was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal with Valor because he was ready for his deployment. 

Are you ready?