JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. --
Instructors from the 57th Weapons Squadron (57 WPS) and seven students in the C-17 Weapons Instructor Course (WIC) and Advanced Instructor Course (AIC) participated in an aeromedical evacuation exercise April 23 at the Yakima Training Center (YTC), Washington.
This exercise was a part of the course’s composite mission application phase, which tested the students’ ability to plan and execute a multi-pronged mission. The students supported an airdrop to forces near a simulated enemy border, as well as an on-call airlift medical evacuation mission from an austere airstrip near combat engagements.
While WIC students were flying the airdrop support portion of the sortie, AIC students and instructors established a simulated expedient evacuation point at the austere field at the YTC, then planned and controlled the movement of forces onto and out of the field. Three C-17 Globemaster IIIs were called into the field to rendezvous with simulated medical evacuation helicopters delivering patients who required immediate evacuation from the theater.
“The Yakima Training Center’s proximity to diverse terrain environments, austere field conditions, and urgency of the simulated medical evacuation provided an environment to test our student’s ability to work together as a team on both the ground and in the air,” said Lt. Col. Nathan Hagerman, 57th WPS chief pilot and WIC instructor.
The mission required students to plan for contingencies ranging from weather impeding their airdrop visibility to an aircraft being the target of significant enemy surface-to-air fire and still needing to meet the requirements of the supported forces.
The aeromedical evacuation exercise takes place about 75 percent of the way through the five-and-a-half-month long WIC class and about 90 percent through the three-month long AIC class. Students in the AIC are enlisted members who train along with pilots in the WIC, often integrating for common learning objectives. WIC students receive an average of 400 hours of graduate-level academics and participate in a capstone exercise consisting of more than 70 aircraft across the U.S. Air Force.
The goal of the course is to train students to be tactical experts in their combat specialty while also learning the art of battle-space dominance. Weapons School graduates are familiar not only with the weapons systems they have been trained in through their career path, but also in how all Air Force and Defense Department assets can be used during combat to achieve synergistic effects.
“WIC students are an elite group and are some of the best instructors in the Air Force before they even show up to the course,” Hagerman said. “Every person who goes through WIC or AIC volunteers from their home station once they’ve met the minimum experience requirements and competes with other applicants from their base for endorsement by their wing commanders.”
Applicants are then assessed and chosen by a central selection board of major command and Air Force personnel center representatives.
“Our team teaches a graduate-level instructor course that creates the ‘instructor of instructors’ for our Air Force,” said Lt. Col. Scott Johnson, 57th WPS commander. “When graduates walk out of our doors they are well versed in advanced tactics, techniques, and procedures in addition to the leadership skills required to lead a high performing team. They work together to solve complex problem sets using every tool the Air Force has to offer and come out of it the finest weapons officers and advanced instructors the Air Force has ever known.”