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Savannah ORE prepares troops

Lt. Col. Vernon Conaway, 16th Airborne Command and Control Squadron, and air crew members ride the bus to the flightline to board a Joint STARS aircraft for a mission during the Operational Readiness Exercise, Nov. 3.

Lt. Col. Vernon Conaway, 16th Airborne Command and Control Squadron, and air crew members ride the bus to the flightline to board a Joint STARS aircraft for a mission during the Operational Readiness Exercise, Nov. 3.

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- The war at the CRTC in Savannah began the morning of Nov. 3. 

Around 4 a.m., to be more precise. 

Of course, it wasn't a real war. It was a simulated ORE -- marking the first of many that the members of the 116th Air Control Wing will participate in before facing the real inspection in December 2010. 

The purpose of the exercise, that lasted just that Saturday, shorter than the usual week-long rehearsals, was to refresh memories of how an ORI is performed. Various attacks were executed to all aspects of the wing, from the maintenance shop to finance, and even to a JSTARS crew while in-flight. 

"It's been about half and half," said Chief Master Sgt. Billy Messer, about the performance of the wing early Saturday morning. "You've got to start somewhere. You have to be ready for something that is possible anywhere." 

The focus of the ORE was to continue the mission while under attack or in imminent attack situations. The ORE began earlier in the week with the arrival of the participants, all of whom aided in the set-up for the exercise and also took part in training, focused on being productive while wearing the chemical gear or in high-pressure situations. 

After a long day of going through simulated situations on Saturday, the rehearsal ended earlier than expected, giving the players a chance to rest before enjoying camaraderie at the Low Country Boil later in the evening. And by Sunday, all evidence of the exercise had been taken down and packed up, with the only foreseeable task of the day was making it home safely. 

"Our training requires the ORE to stay proficient," said Col. William Welsh, who was the Commander over the exercise. "The (practice) covers every aspect of the wing." 

Col. Welsh was located in the Emergency Operations Center, which was the pulse of the activity. If any direction were needed, it would come out of the EOC, which was covered in dry erase boards tracking everything from the location of personnel to where an unexploded ordnance (UXO) was found and what, if any, damage was done. 

The Finance and MPF offices were housed together, while the Communications was in a separate location, as were the Civil Engineers, While every shop was targeted at least once, Finance, Civil Engineering and Maintenance were targeted following the lunch break as the exercise came to a close. 

Finance dealt with everything from keeping up with changing exchange rates, keeping track of both foreign and U.S. currency as well as opening banking accounts and cashing checks. 

"We're closed," said Staff Sgt. Josh St. John, as he sat behind a simulated bullet-proof glass partition before MOPP 4 was announced. "We lost a whole lot of money." 

But despite the hardship in finance, Sergeant St. John added that it had been a great learning experience. CE dealt with a security breach within their office that led to a chemical attack (or really, a suitcase shooting out water), and Maintenance found themselves dealing with a chest and head wound before the exercise was called for the day at around 1:30 p.m. 

All that was left was the clean-up and evaluations -- and to rest up for the Low Country Boil that evening. The Senior Staff provided the dinner, which was set-up and spearheaded by Col. Lois Stark. Everyone feasted on shrimp, crab legs, sausage, corn on the cob and potatoes. 

"We wanted to start at a crawl, (then move to a) walk and (then move to a) run," said Senior Master Sgt. David Fite, who added that those who participated in the ORE will be asked for their opinion on whether or not to hold the remaining exercises as well as the ORI at the CRTC. 

Added Sergeant Fite, "Our role is to educate. We have a lot of new people and we want to make sure they understand a lot of different (scenarios)."