109th Airmen Prepare for Deployment at Southern Strike Exercise

  • Published
  • By U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Bristol Evasco
  • 133rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Airmen from the 109th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron (AES) partnered with Airmen from the 146th AES during training exercise Southern Strike at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center Auxiliary Airfield, Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Southern Strike was a fully immersive two-week pre-deployment exercise designed to get participants into a deployment mindset, completing as many training tasks as efficiently as possible.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Bridget Fink, Aerospace Evacuation Technician with the 109th AES shared her Southern Strike experience, “It was great to experience what deployment can be like. Having curve balls thrown our way was an important part of this exercise. It helped to stimulate critical thinking to overcome challenges.”

Southern Strike also provided several opportunities to work with other AE squadrons and the Mississippi Army National Guard, which made the training more closely represent a deployed setting and the situations they may encounter. Thanks to the variety of units participating, additional training included night scenarios with patient transfers from helicopters onto C-130J aircraft, a mission with a C-17 aircraft, and the incorporation of Training Aids, Devices, Simulators and Simulations (TADSS), assets not typically available for home station training at the 133rd Airlift Wing.

Alan Davis, 109th Flight Nurse and Medical Crew Director, described the value of Southern Strike, “There are several advantages to training with different units,” he said. “Partnering with multiple units also increased the resources at our disposal, providing a unique alternative to traditional pre-deployment training.”

Fink detailed her training experience away from home station, “It gave me the opportunity to get a feeling of being deployed as we operated in a simulated environment with real-world situations and injected scenarios. It also strengthened bonds within crews and helped the crews overcome stressors and conflict.” She further reflected, “Overall, it was a beneficial experience. My upcoming deployment will be my first, so the ability to participate in an immersive exercise like Southern Strike helped me overcome any nerves about deploying.”