JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska –
The 673d Civil Engineer Group conducted a three-day bivouac at Camp Mad Bull at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, June 12-14, 2023.
To train multi-capable Airmen, members of 673d CEG employed field training and construction techniques as part of their Air Force Force Generation and Ready Airman Training.
The training also emphasized Agile Combat Employment, which prioritizes maneuverability within threat timelines to maximize survivability while building combat power.
“Ultimately, this exercise is practicing our ACE multi-capable Airman capabilities,” said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Andrew Morgenstern, 773d Civil Engineer Squadron operations engineering officer in charge. “We’re out here essentially practicing our ability to set up a bare base, and then accomplish tasks with limited resources and tools.”
Limiting access to resources and tools was paramount in mimicking a deployed environment where supplies are not guaranteed to arrive on time.
“In a real-world environment, we might not have [certain supplies] on hand,” said U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Marcus Dunn, electrical systems apprentice assigned to the 773d CES. “We might have to wait 24 hours to get some supplies in.”
In addition to AFFORGEN training, this exercise added MCA training, which involves placing Airmen in tasks outside their specialty. Morgenstern outlined the first day of setting up essential facilities such as shelter, latrines and showers. Days two and three focused on building defensive fighting positions – otherwise known as foxholes – and improving the established training grounds where Airmen completed jobs outside their expertise.
“In a given situation, we need people to be able to do not only their job, but other jobs,” said Morgenstern. “This is the critical part of the multi-capable Airman concept. We’re practicing like this because this is how we deploy.”
For the 673d CEG, this meant switching from one trade to another and taking Airmen out of familiar territory. Dunn said working on structures instead of electrical systems was a challenge.
“The most challenging thing is learning how to build a fighting position without Structures [Airmen] here with us. That’s their main thing: building homes and structures. When we don’t have our Structures Airmen to show us what we have to do, we have to cover down to keep the mission going,” said Dunn. “So we have to retain what they told us before they had to leave.”
The struggle of acclimating to unfamiliar tasks did not go unnoticed by team leads and officers as they monitored and guided Airmen over the course of the exercise.
“There were some growing pains. Right at the beginning, folks were a little hesitant to hop in, especially when it came to doing jobs that weren’t necessarily in their usual wheel house,” said Morgenstern. “As this exercise continued, people started to really embrace the multi-capable aspect and the intent of this training by taking it on, trying out new things and learning things they don’t necessarily get to do every day. So far, the attitude has been pretty positive.”
This three-day bivouac exercise was not solely for the purpose of deployment preparation, but training for unforeseen circumstances that may call on Airmen to take on roles beyond their expertise.
“Ultimately, it’s gauging our multi-capable Airmen, our capabilities, practicing for ACE, and practicing for the unknown, like being put on an island with a team of engineers and having to figure out how to accomplish a job or task,” said Morgenstern. “This is something commanders are prioritizing, especially with upcoming deployments. We want to practice before we’re on the hook.”