Don't be shocked: 446th electricians find the spark

By Staff Sgt. Grant Saylor/446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs on June 1, 2011

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Sparks are flying at the Silver Flag training site here, but not the romantic kind. It's the electric specialists from the 446th Civil Engineer Squadron, keeping the juice flowing for more than 170 trainees, including 30 Reservists from the 446th CES.

The Reservist from McChord Field, Wash., are here for a week-long training exercise designed to improve the readiness capability of Air Force civil engineers. The electricians are learning and polishing skills involved in taking a bare base and setting up all the essential electricity requirements needed to support Airmen in a deployed environment.

"We go from ground zero to everything electrified," said Master Sgt. Dwayne Lee, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the 446th CES electric shop.

That means power for lighting, air conditioning, kitchen, laundry and bathroom facilities, and potable water tank circulation pumps.  It all originates from the know-how of specialists like Sergeant Lee. The Silver Flag training exercise is proving to be an ideal way for senior NCOs like Sergeant Lee to mentor up-and-coming electric wizards.

"The most rewarding part of this exercise is watching our younger Airmen train and excel," said Sergeant Lee, a native of Rochester, Wash. "Here, the focus is on true skill training instead of a deadline, and having fun while doing it."

Those younger Airmen are being put to the test in the hot Florida sun, installing and configuring primary and secondary distribution centers, which provide power to tent cities. They're also responsible for the installation of emergency airfield lighting systems and remote area lighting systems. The get-your-hands-dirty approach is proving popular among younger Reservists.

"This exercise gets you up to skill and prepares you for a wartime situation," said Senior Airman Ernest Munns, 446th CES electrician. "I feel like I'm getting more proficient, improving my technical skills and figuring out different ways of getting the job done more efficiently while still following our technical orders."

And it's not just the younger Airmen who are learning from the training provided during the Silver Flag exercise, which occurs every three years. Sergeant Lee, a veteran of about 10 deployments, said he and other senior NCOs are learning new management styles from each other. That, in turn, he hopes will make him a better supervisor and NCO for his troops. He's also soaked up new superintendent knowledge this week by working in a unit command and control center.

But the biggest benefit of Silver Flag training is arguably the new-found confidence among Reservists, knowing they've put their skills to the test in a training exercise intended to simulate the real deal: deployment to a theater of operation.

"I feel a lot of people get out of the military because they don't feel they're properly trained," said Airman Munns, a former security forces officer and resident of Vancouver, Wash. "This changes all that... it gives you confidence in your skills."