How the ‘Village’ Mission Tests Air Force Trainees at Boot Camp

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  • One of the final tasks at the US Air Force’s basic training program is the “Village” mission.
  • The trainees’ objective is to rescue an injured airman inside in less than three minutes.
  • Instructors acting as opposing forces amid simulated sounds of IED explosions and gunfire.
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– Instructor: Y’all are all trained in TCCC, right? Somebody save this downed airman then.

Trainee: Hey, there’s a tourniquet right there.

Trainee: Oh, there is?

Instructor: Wake up. Calm down and think.

Narrator: These trainees are performing lifesaving first aid on a mannequin.

Trainee: You guys are my cover. Let’s go.

Narrator: It’s part of a combat exercise at Air Force basic military training simply known as “The Village.”

Instructor: No!

Trainee: Drop it!

Instructor: Put your weapon down, and you two stop.

Narrator: And it’s one of the final exercises of BEAST week, or Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, the culminating event of BMT.

Trainee: Move forward, move forward.

Narrator: The trainees’ mission is to infiltrate The Village and then locate and rescue a wounded airman in less than three minutes.

Instructor: You’re dead, you’re dead, you’re dead, you’re dead, you’re dead, you’re dead, you’re dead.

Narrator: But instructors acting as opposing forces, both hostile and nonthreatening, [explosion] and the simulated sounds of explosives [gunfire] and gunfire create an intimidating environment.

Instructor: You’re dead. You weren’t paying attention to me. I was right in front of you the whole time, with a weapon.

Narrator: Located approximately six miles from Lackland Air Force Base, The Village is filled with dilapidated buildings and broken-down cars, simulating the look and feel of a town that airmen might encounter during a deployment. Each team of trainees is briefed on their mission.

Instructor: Hey, you got to go in there fast, all right? Once you hit The Village, you don’t hesitate. You’ve got to go right in, and you’re going to go find that downed airman. Make sense?

Trainees: Yes, sir.

Trainee: The right’s going to go first, left second, middle last, so that way we can cover him. Copy?

Trainees: Yes, sir.

Trainee: Perfect. Let’s hit it.

Narrator: Trainees march along a 1 1/2-mile trail to reach The Village…

Trainees: UXO in the area.

Narrator: Watching out for unexploded explosive ordnances, or UXOs.

Instructor: Welcome. Village chief. Village chief. Come.

Narrator: Upon arriving at The Village, the trainees are met by instructors acting as opposing forces.

Trainee: We’re looking for a friend, sir.

Instructor: Friend?

Trainee: Yes, sir.

Instructor: Airman?

Trainee: Uh, not an airman.

Narrator: The trainees assess the situation to determine whether or not they pose a threat.

Instructor: Come! Come!

Narrator: And enter The Village to locate the downed airman. [bomb exploding] [gunshots banging]

Trainee: Drop your weapon! Move forward, move forward.

John Williams: Adding stress, adding sounds, explosions, simulated IEDs, I want them to be able to think under that stress and be able to react under that stress appropriately.

Instructor: All bunched up. Let’s go. Make a decision, communicate, and move.

Williams: Most often they don’t. They freeze up.

Justina Attwell: At first, I thought I was just going to rush in and know what to do, but I still froze. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know where to run.

Narrator: At one point, an instructor tested this trainee by walking up and slowly taking away their weapon.

Instructor: Can I see? Oh, thank you.

Williams: Somebody tries to take your weapon, the appropriate response would have been use minimal force.

Instructor: White building! Trainee: Halt!

Narrator: Trainees are taught to use minimal force on noncompliant individuals and are only supposed to use deadly force on those who exhibit a clear capability and intent to harm.

Trainees: Put your weapon above your head!

Narrator: But nerves can get the best of some trainees.

Trainee: Put your hands up! Fire! Trigger, trigger, trigger!

Instructor: Why did you shoot me?

Trainee: You have a grenade in your hand and a weapon in your hand, sir.

Instructor: But how did you know it was a grenade? You’re that far away, you don’t know. And I’m not pointing my weapon at you. Why would you shoot me?

Michael Ang: Because of that heightened stress that we put them on, they tend to forget which type of force they’re going to use in what scenario. Trainees utilizing deadly force when they’re not supposed to be sets us back in a mission that we’re trying to accomplish overseas.

Narrator: Trainees also have to look out for mock IEDs.

Williams: The booby traps I have in place, they are trip wire set or manually set. Y’all didn’t even see that right there?

Trainee: Yes, sir?

Williams: You don’t think nothing was strange about it? They’re supposed to be able to recognize the warning signs of an IED. More often than not, they don’t recognize it, and they get dusted with baby powder.

Instructor: Y’all are all trained in TCCC, right? Somebody save this downed airman then. Let’s go!

Narrator: Once the trainees reach the injured airman, they utilize their previous training in Tactical Combat Casualty Care, or TCCC.

Ang: So, with TCCC, they start applying things that they need to do to actually save that wingman’s life and actually sustain them until actual medical personnel can be brought in and provide the proper care that they need.

Narrator: After successfully applying aid, the trainees must evacuate their downed airman to safety to complete the objective.

Instructor: Communicate. Make a decision. Let’s go. Watch your muzzle!

Ang: Hey, this is why we train. Now, some of y’all made a couple of mistakes. I wouldn’t call it too bad. What’s some of the things you did poorly? Talk to me.

Trainee: Communication, sir.

Ang: Communication? A lot of you all stalled right at that entrance. That’s a normal behavior that we see out here. A lot of stalling. You’re trying to feel it out. We all came up with a plan before you came out here, right?

Trainees: Yes, sir.

Ang: Y’all need to follow that plan and execute. Get in, save the airman, deal with everything as it comes, because that’s how it is real world. We don’t have a plan for what it is out there. That’s why we do it here, so y’all can start learning how to think on your feet quickly.

Trainees: Yes, sir.

Attwell: Teamwork is important. There were times where they would sneak up behind you and nobody was paying attention to your back, so you’ve just got to stay aware and try your best not to be scared. It’s hard to explain, but the less shaky you are, the easier it’ll be, the smoother it’ll go. I like the running. I liked ducking for cover. It kind of felt like the real thing, and that’s what we’re here for.

Ang: It’s actually very much a learning experience. We are here to expose weaknesses and mistakes. That way they can see it firsthand.

Williams: Again, this is basic military training, so you’re going to learn some basic expeditionary skills. It lays that foundation. When they do go to their career fields and go through a more advanced expeditionary training, and then when they do go downrange, they’ll be ready.

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