Shooters launch first Rapid Ready Weasel exercise

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Benjamin Shipley, 55th Fighter Squadron F-16CM Fighting Falcon pilot, prepares for flight atop his aircraft at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Nov. 16, 2017.

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Benjamin Shipley, 55th Fighter Squadron F-16CM Fighting Falcon pilot, prepares for flight atop his aircraft at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Nov. 16, 2017. During the Rapid Ready Weasel exercise, pilots flew practice defensive counter-air sorties under simulated chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear conditions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Destinee Sweeney)

U.S. Airmen simulate decontaminating a pilot while wing inspection team members watch during the first Rapid Ready Weasel at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Nov. 16, 2017.

U.S. Airmen simulate decontaminating a pilot while wing inspection team members watch during the first Rapid Ready Weasel at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Nov. 16, 2017. The 55th Fighter Squadron’s aircrew flight equipment Airmen ran a decontamination line, following various procedures to safely extract a pilot out of their gear after simulated chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear conditions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Destinee Sweeney)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Cody Hilderbrand, 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron tactical aircraft maintainer, takes accountability of his toolbox at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Nov. 16, 2017.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Cody Hilderbrand, 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron tactical aircraft maintainer, takes accountability of his toolbox at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Nov. 16, 2017. Hilderbrand launched and maintained F-16CM Fighting Falcons while participating in the first Rapid Ready Weasel exercise, which tested Airmen’s abilities to endure stressors such as chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear conditions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Destinee Sweeney)

A U.S. Air Force tactical aircraft maintainer assigned to the 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron marshals out an F-16CM Fighting Falcon at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Nov. 16, 2017.

A U.S. Air Force tactical aircraft maintainer assigned to the 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron marshals out an F-16CM Fighting Falcon at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Nov. 16, 2017. The Airman participated in the Rapid Ready Weasel exercise, a new type of exercise tailored around the needs of the 20th Fighter Wing’s fighter squadrons to allow them to focus on maintaining flightline readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Destinee Sweeney)

An F-16CM Fighting Falcon takes off from the flightline at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Nov. 16, 2017.

An F-16CM Fighting Falcon takes off from the flightline at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Nov. 16, 2017. Its pilot participated in the Ready Rapid Weasel exercise by performing defensive counter-air sorties under simulated chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear conditions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Destinee Sweeney)

U.S. Airmen perform a buddy check during the first Rapid Ready Weasel exercise at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Nov. 16, 2017.

U.S. Airmen perform a buddy check during the first Rapid Ready Weasel exercise at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Nov. 16, 2017. Maintenance Airmen performed their duties under various mission oriented protective posture conditions during the exercise to test their combat capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Destinee Sweeney)

A pair of boots and hearing-protective earphones lie on the ground after being set aside by an Airman prior to climbing into the intake of an F-16CM Fighting Falcon at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Nov. 16, 2017.

A pair of boots and hearing-protective earphones lie on the ground after being set aside by an Airman prior to climbing into the intake of an F-16CM Fighting Falcon at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Nov. 16, 2017. The maintainer removed his shoes to prevent damage and foreign object debris from entering the intake while he was inspecting it. After the aircraft landed, maintenance Airmen worked together to prepare the jets for another round of flights. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Destinee Sweeney)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jamal Christian, 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron tactical aircraft maintainer, waits for a pilot’s arrival next to an F-16CM Fighting Falcon at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Nov. 16, 2017.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jamal Christian, 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron tactical aircraft maintainer, waits for a pilot’s arrival next to an F-16CM Fighting Falcon at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Nov. 16, 2017. Maintenance Airmen launched and fixed F-16s while facing various obstacles including simulated communication issues and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats as well as the cold weather. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Destinee Sweeney)

U.S. Air Force pilots assigned to the 55th Fighter Squadron meet for a pre-flight brief at the unit operations desk at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Nov. 16, 2017.

U.S. Air Force pilots assigned to the 55th Fighter Squadron meet for a pre-flight brief at the unit operations desk at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Nov. 16, 2017. The pilots participated in the first Rapid Ready Weasel exercise, which tested their ability to operate in a chemically contaminated environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Destinee Sweeney)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- On a cold autumn morning, F-16CM Fighting Falcon maintainers scramble to put on gas masks and look over their wingmen for potential leaks in mission oriented protective posture gear, which could compromise the clothing’s ability to deter the effects of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.

After a few minutes, the alarm changes and the conglomeration of tactical aircraft maintainers, avionics specialists and other skilled technicians break and go their separate ways, working as a team to ensure Shaw Weasels receive the training they need to stay ready.

The 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 55th Aircraft Maintenance Unit in addition to the 55th Fighter Squadron, participated in the first Rapid Ready Weasel exercise at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Nov. 16.

Rapid Ready Weasel exercises are designed to provide young leaders the opportunity to make challenging, mission-related decisions.

Capt. Tom Mueller, 55th FS chief of mobility and exercise acting mission director, said this exercise will hopefully provide concentrated training as opposed to other training methods such as operational readiness exercises.

“The big difference is that we are able to tailor the entire exercise to meet our desired learning objectives,” said Mueller.

The new training exercise focuses on flightline capabilities to align with Air Combat Command priorities such as tactical proficiency and the ability to rapidly deploy and employ combat airpower.

“You have to be ready at all times for any kind of combat situation that we could come into contact with,” said Airman 1st Class Curtis Hummel, 20th AMXS avionics specialist and exercise participant. “Our unit does deploy … so we have to be prepared for that.”

During the exercise, maintainers and pilots worked together to launch and accomplish defensive counter-air sorties while overcoming obstacles such as the cold weather as well as simulated fires, CBRN threats, and communication failures.

Hummel said his unit’s wingmanship helped them overcome the obstacles presented to them.

“If somebody doesn’t understand what’s going on, it’s your responsibility to make sure that they do know what’s going on,” said Hummel. “Also, if I’m not doing something right, somebody’s going to tell me I’m not doing something right. We’ve all got each other’s backs out here and that’s how it is when you deploy.”

Approximately 200 pilots and maintainers participated in the Rapid Ready Weasel exercise to hone their decision making and technical skills and increase overall unit readiness. By preparing for a variety of potential obstacles ahead of time, Shaw Weasels can continue to provide the suppression of enemy air defenses and combat F-16 airpower while deployed.