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Accident response training pays off for 386th AEW during real-world event

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Master Sgt. Michael Obrien, the incident commander assigned to the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron fire department, discusses a quick reference checklist with first responders during a major accident response exercise Thursday May 25, 2017, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. The 386th AEW held the MARE to evaluate its effectiveness at mitigating the effects of a major accident on the operations tempo of the wing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Hehnly)

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Master Sgt. Lance Moore (right), a 386th Air Expeditionary Wing weapons safety manager, runs down a checklist during a major accident response exercise Thursday May 25, 2017, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Hehnly)

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An MQ-1 Predator sits on the flight line Dec. 8, 2016, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. The predator started as an RQ-1 in the late 1990s providing reconnaissance capabilities only until the early 2000s when it was equipped with two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christian Clausen)

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An MQ-1 Predator flies a training mission Dec. 12, 2016, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. An MQ-1 aircrew destroyed a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device heading toward approximately 850 friendlies. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christian Clausen)

SOUTHWEST ASIA --

A recent remotely piloted aircraft equipment malfunction proved the effectiveness of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing’s latest major accident response exercise and overall response readiness.

The 386th AEW’s response capabilities and training were put to the test recently, when an MQ-1 Predator had an operating system malfunction while on a combat mission. The wing’s reactionary team quickly jumped into action and safely recovered the munitions onboard upon landing.

“It is very rare that something like this happens and we fly daily missions out of here,” said Master Sgt. Lance Moore, the 386th AEW weapons safety manager.

The real-life situation was strikingly similar to a scenario the wing was evaluated on during its major accident response exercise held at the end of May.

“We had an MQ-1 in the exercise and it just so happened that that was the exact aircraft that came down with a problem,” said Chief Master Sgt. Michael Higby, the 386th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron superintendent. “The exercise was a munitions-related scenario and we had a munitions-related real-world. So the prep for this one almost mirrored exactly the type of response we had.”

The MARE’s scenario was different in that it involved a parked aircraft that was struck by another vehicle, but because they both were munitions-related and the airframes were alike, the same wing agencies responded and followed similar procedures.

In situations such as these, the maintenance operations center and command post work in tandem, following quick reference checklists to get all the wing agencies coordinated and on scene.

“The MARE ensured all the agencies can be ready for any kind of incident,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Camelo, a quality assurance inspector assigned to the 386th Expeditionary Maintenance Group. “With the most recent event, they all came out pretty quickly and everything was handled in the right manner. It showed that the base itself is ready for any incident that could happen.”

“There is no doubt that practicing and running through scenarios helps,” said Higby. “It helps us iron out the communication. It helps us iron out the players that need to be out there and the role that they need to play when out there. In a real-world situation you have no choice but to get it right.”

In the recent real-world scenario, first responders from the security forces squadron, medical group and fire department came together with the maintenance group, explosive ordnance disposal flight, wing safety, airfield management and civilian contractors to bring the event to a successful and safe conclusion.

“What makes wings like this successful, is that we are not afraid to test ourselves to find out where our weaknesses are, and then of course improve on those weaknesses so when it is time to execute it’s absolutely flawless,” said Higby. “And that’s exactly what happened here.”

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