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Dress Rehearsal for the 263rd

Stanly County, North Carolina --
"We've done our best to make our training for our Operational Readiness Inspection as realistic as possible," so says 1st Lt. Brad Claxton. Indeed, the 263rd Combat Communications Squadron has been preparing for the past two years. Scouring the regulations set forth by the Air Combat Command's Inspector General's office, and devouring the after-action reports coming forth from communication units having been already inspected, the 263rd set about creating a "combat tent city" that would mimic a real world deployment to the Southwest Asia theater.

According to Major Martha Dickens, the technician commander of the 263rd, "We felt that we wanted to create this tent city so that all 191 members of our unit could experience what it's like to be deployed, not just the 35 or so individuals chosen to participate in the Inspector General's Exercise."

The pictures depicted here are from the unit's third and last Operational Readiness Exercise prior its ORI, which comes in June. Dickens says that they also have conducted several mini-ORE's "Just to get everyone's mind into the game."

Master Sgt. Jerry Kiser, who works in the Power Pro section (responsible for the integrity of the electrical power generators vital to the 263rd's mission), agrees with this whole team approach saying, "If you can see it, you're better able to do it." For example, Kiser attributes the realistic moulage of casualties as helping him and the rest of his Post Attack Recovery team get a better sense of what medical treatment needed to be initiated. "After seeing what appeared to be the real thing, our self-aid and buddy care training seemed to kick-in automatically."

More importantly, he feels that at the 263rd there's a good level of competence and experience. "We're a close knit group with a lot of esprit-de-corps. As we were setting up to operate, the various sections worked well together. This helped us cut more than an hour off the allotted time given us to be up and operational."

The work continues to tweak and polish; adjust and hone. According to Master Sgt. David Wiatrek, who serves as an Exercise Evaluation Team member , "We keep reviewing the latest data coming out of the Inspector General's office just to be sure we don't miss anything. We saw from this past exercise that we needed to make a few minor adjustments to several of our operating instructions, but I think we're about there."

In the end, the success for the 263rd will be due in large measure to the dedication of the whole team not just to the ones deploying. Major Dickens praises the commitment of all her airmen from the top down. "We actually have a person who, due to his civilian job, now lives in Germany, nevertheless, he still wants to be a part of this and plans to be here. And while he may be traveling the farthest, he's not the only one making a long commute to be a player." For Dickens that speaks volumes and serves as a strong indicator that the 263rd Combat Communications Squadron will do very well at meeting its upcoming challenge.