The Magazine of the NJ National Guard
volume 32 number 1

Guardlife Index

Wing Leads In Silver Flag
Story by Staff Sgt. Barb Harbison, 108ARW/PA
photos by Master. Sgt. Louis Conzo, 108ARW/CES
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Staff Sgt. Kevin Sharp (left) and Senior Airman Quixion Johnson (right) measure for airfield lighting placement.
Leading 150 Airmen from 16 bases and 13 states, the 108th Air Refueling Wing's Civil Engineer Squadron successfully completed a Silver Flag exercise at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., in January.

From the Golden State to the Garden State, Wisconsin to Florida and states in between, these men and women came together to become a team in less than one week. Lt. Col. Paul Novello, commander of the 108th CES, was the Camp Commander during the exercise, whose 40 Airmen melded effectively with Airmen from active duty, Reserves and Guard to perform their duties.

"We teach you stuff we hope you never have to use," intoned Chief Master Sgt. Joe Wright, Site Chief, Detachment 1, 823rd RED HORSE Squadron, Tyndall AFB, during the incoming briefing.

The week-long exercise provides contingency training free from home station constraints according to Wright. All equipment such as tents, vehicles and tools needed for the exercise are pre-positioned and provided by the Air Force; the Airmen must bring their personal gear, sleeping bags and chemical gear.

The Airmen train on various tasks including: repairing flightline craters after explosions from unexploded bombs, the design and construction of a tent city, putting out fires, rescuing a pilot from a downed aircraft, finance, contracting, personnel and services.

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Senior Airman Madarrell P. McCullough works with other Silver Flag participants to erect an Alaskan Shelter.

For some Airmen coming to Silver Flag is a new adventure and for others like Staff Sgt. Joseph Starr, an electrician with the 108th CES, it was a repeat visit. Starr was down at Tyndall for his fourth Silver Flag exercise. "Most times everyone comes together well; we all work together to accomplish the common task," he said. "The benefits to Silver Flag are that the Airmen get a better grasp on the mission and can see the big picture on how the people and equipment come together to accomplish the mission," added Starr.

Lt. Col. Novello said that CE's peacetime mission is to maintain the local base but their wartime mission is the preparation of a bare base for the receipt of forces and the maintenance and operation of the tent city and base recovery activities. "The training at Silver Flag is also hands-on, intensified training for what CE will do on the 108th's upcoming ORE and ORI."

He said that one of the challenges of leading Airmen from many different locations and components in this short time period was making sure that the right people are in the right positions.

"I have people who are the same rank and I must look at their experience and figure who would be best in the job," Novello stated.

He said that the best things about coming to Silver Flag was that they all got to do hands-on training without being encumbered with the day-to-day issues of home base. "Plus all the pieces of the CE puzzle are together and we have added finance, services, contracting and personnel, so it is quite a complete package, similar to if we would deploy," he said.

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Members of the 108th Civil Engineering Squadron work with members of CE squadrons from across the United States positioning the mobile aircraft arresting system to ensure that it is positioned properly on the flightline.

Master Sgt. Marie Reavis, 108th CES First Sgt. said that her biggest challenge at Silver Flag, as a first sergeant was to get out there and be visible to the people. "I have to reach out and touch the Airmen. Being physically available for people to see is very important." Reavis admitted to looking forward to the week's training. "It is critical for everyone to get this training. For all of us to get something out of the training and get it accomplished safely," she stated.

Reavis's hopes came true when Novello spoke after the squadron returned to McGuire. "Silver Flag was better than my wildest dreams," he said with a big smile. During the portion where the Silver Flag cadre measured the visiting Airmen for their execution of tasks, Novello said they completed the metrics within the expected time frames. "The beddown was completed a half hour before expectations and the breakdown and redeployment was completed two hours ahead of time," he said. "These Airmen came together and worked effectively as one team," stated Novello. "The Silver Flag cadre stated that our bed-down briefing was one of the best they had seen to date."

During the training Novello stressed unity and safety and his emphasis worked as the entire group came away from the exercise with no one injured.

Two of the four "Outstanding Performers" recognized by the 823rd Red Horse cadre during this Silver Flag Exercise were from the 108th CES. They were Staff Sgt. Carlos Morales and Master Sgt. Marie Reavis.

"I am extremely proud of the job that the 108th CE did while at Silver Flag, and the way they have always performed," said Novello. "And I know they will continue to perform exceptionally."
Staff Sgt. Joe Landry, right, works with a Silver Flag team member on the fresh water supply system.
(c) 2006 NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs