The future of Emergency Management is SPEARS

  • Published
  • By MSgt Chauncey Reed
  • 188th Wing

The Air National Guard's Specialized Personnel and Equipment for Austere Reconnaissance and Surveillance (SPEARS) course was hosted May 23 by the 188th Wing at the Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center outside of Fort Smith, Arkansas.

“The 188th Emergency Managers developed this course to transform the carrier field from primarily working in an office environment to conducting operations in a degraded combat environment,” said Chief Master Sergeant Josh Rich, 188th Wing emergency manager chief and SPEARS course manager. “With the relationships and outstanding facilities we have at the Chaffee Maneuver Training Center Arkansas, this was the ideal location to challenge our airmen and instigate this change.

SPEARS is a one-week course developed in response to the ever-changing nature of modern warfare. It equips Airmen with skills and knowledge needed to navigate the evolving landscape of future operations while operating effectively in small, mobile teams. With a strong emphasis on competition and deterrence against adversaries, as well as addressing the challenges of accessing locations and sustaining operations, this course is positioned to play a pivotal role in the Air Force's strategic objectives.

"We are evolving, not stuck in what we were doing in Southwest Asia or previous conflicts. We are adapting to the ever-changing environment," said Chief Master Sergeant David Frates, from the 103rd Airlift Wing in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, and is the National Guard Bureau’s A4X FEMA region one emergency manager chief.

These small teams form part of a demand force package. When a combatant commander identifies a need for this type of Emergency Management CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear) team, he or she can call the team to address concerns. This is essential for hazards at a contingency location requiring better understanding, categorization, or mitigation. The team can load onto an aircraft and reach the target as quickly as possible. Once on-site, the team provides vital information to the combatant commander to develop a comprehensive picture of all hazards at the site.

Through tactics training and exercises, the Emergency Management career field implemented a strategic process to consolidate a large equipment and personnel package into a single vehicle strike team to be efficiently transported to any required location. This consolidation focuses on maintaining the elements necessary for CBRN reconnaissance and other requirements to operationalize a contingency location.

"This is the kind of training I've wished I had throughout my entire career," said Senior Airman Tyler McPherson, a SPEARS student from the 103rd Airlift Wing. "The most crucial aspect of this training is pushing people outside of their comfort zones.”

McPherson further emphasized it's easy to become too focused on familiar regulations and hazards. Emergency Management leaders are evaluating threats, looking ahead to future fights, and ensuring Airmen are prepared.

Graduates have lauded the course for its practical application and relevance to real-world scenarios, enabling them to become more resilient, adaptable, and proactive emergency managers.

During the course, students encounter scenarios that require self-navigation to a specific location and identification of potential hazards. Students also participate in a 72-hour field training exercise where they eat, sleep, and operate in the field. The course also tackles the challenges associated with accessing and sustaining operations in theater which is necessary to compete and deter adversaries.

"Embrace the challenges; the course isn't easy. Students will face struggles, but we must encourage them to persevere, embrace the difficulties, and push through," said SPEARS instructor Technical Sergeant Daniel Johnston, from the 163rd Attach Wing at March Air Base, California. "Our goal is to develop highly-trained Airmen who can accomplish missions regardless of their placement.”