You fight the way you train, so train the way you fight

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. David Moeller
  • 335th Fighter Squadron commander
Recently, the 4th Fighter Wing received the Air Force Historical Foundation's 2011 Doolittle Award for displaying "bravery, determination, discipline, esprit de corps, superior planning, and execution of operations under extremely hazardous conditions in multiple conflicts." This award is based on participation in global operations for more than 70 years. Shortly after Great Britain entered World War II in 1941, the Royal Air Force Eagle Squadrons formed and would eventually become the 4th FW.

We were the first fighter unit to fly over Nazi Germany and tallied 1,016 enemy aircraft destroyed. In 1950, after North Korea invaded South Korea, the 4th FW deployed to the Korean peninsula to achieve air superiority. We are credited with 502 of the 792 MiGs shot down during the Korean War, with one 4th FW unit, the 335th Fighter Squadron, gaining a reputation as the "world's leading MiG killers" with 218 confirmed kills.

When the U.S. military's commitment to South Vietnam increased in the 1960s, we flew combat missions for more than seven years. After Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, we were one of the first units deployed to operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm; eventually employing more than eight million pounds of weapons. After the 9/11 attacks, elements of the 4th FW deployed to fly combat missions simultaneously over Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Doolittle Award is not only a testament to the remarkable combat record of the 4th FW from WWII to the present day, but to the high level of peacetime training that allowed a successful transition to deployed combat operations.

The relationship between training and combat success is especially important now as the 4th FW gears up for aerospace expeditionary force taskings and an operational readiness inspection. In order to effectively train the way we will fight, it is important to keep two concepts in mind: understand technical order data and procedures; and supervisory assessments of subordinate performance and enforcement of T.O. procedures.

The first key to training the way we will fight is a foundational understanding of Air Force Instructions and T.O.s. This is a prerequisite to effectively performing your duty anytime, anywhere. Virtually every T.O. is based on extensive field testing and written with safety, mission accomplishment and personnel experience levels in mind. If there is a discrepancy between the way a task is to be performed in training and combat, then it is important to highlight the discrepancy and submit a recommended fix.

Recently, during a 4th FW Combat Hammer Weapons System Evaluation Program, an average of one hour was needed to load ammunition into the F-15E gun with limited operational reliability. The 4th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Airmen, in conjunction with members of 4th Equipment Maintenance Squadron, researched T.O. data, noticed a discrepancy in the T.O procedures, developed an alternative method for loading the gun and submitted an idea to standardize T.O. procedures. The next time, a gun was loaded 25 percent quicker and with greater operational reliability. Had the experts in these squadrons not understood current technical orders, they would not have been able to develop a more effective way to accomplish the mission. As a result of their T.O. knowledge, they developed a standardized and reliable procedure for the F-15E community that is utilized in both peacetime and combat.

The second key to training is compliance assessment and enforcement by supervision. Front-line supervisors must ensure personnel are performing tasks safely and in accordance with regulatory guidance. This starts with assessing that Airmen under your supervision know and understand guidance - either formally though training programs and/or informally by simply asking questions to assess knowledge levels. Next, supervisors must periodically evaluate compliance.

In the 4th Operations Group, fighter aircrews perform Situational Emergency Procedures Training monthly with either an instructor or squadron supervisor. This training assesses T.O. compliance, knowledge of aircraft systems, and ability to perform required tasks. Typically, the SEPT is based on a combat scenario with supervision injecting combat considerations with feedback and analysis occurring throughout the profile. Too often, we rely on inspectors or quality assurance personnel to enforce compliance --this is too late. We should be in the habit of constant assessment to determine subordinate compliance. If compliance is lacking, it is important to identify the "root cause" for non-compliance and enforce a fix. Nearly 20 years ago, a B-52 crashed at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., in an accident that could have been prevented if supervisors had assessed a pattern of non-compliance and enforced correct procedures. By performing these supervisory duties, we can ensure that subordinates have the right skills, training, and focus to succeed in both training and combat.

The 4th FW has an unmatched record of success in combat for more 70 years. This success is based on the ability to translate peacetime training into combat performance, specifically by understanding T.O. guidance and effective supervisory assessment and enforcement of procedures. As we look toward upcoming AEF deployments and ORI execution, it is important to remember the "bravery, determination, discipline, esprit de corps, and superior planning and execution" recognized by the Doolittle Award in order to continue the proud tradition of fighting the way we train!