Why do we go through CAST?

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Todd Wivell
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The unit deployment manager calls you into his office. He has something to tell you and you know he is about to say that you are going to deploy.

Without a missing a beat, he lets you know that you have been selected to head to Afghanistan for a minimum of 179 days for a rotational deployment and that you are due to leave within the next few months.

On top of all of that you have to do to prepare, he lets you know you will have to attend the 10-day Combat Airman Skills Training at Camp Anderson-Peters, part of Camp Bullis, Texas, Camp Guernsey, Wyo., or Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.

As you prepare for your CAST training you start to wonder. "What will this CAST be like? Will the instructors be hard on me? What if I get kicked out? Why do I have to go through this, I have never needed it before?"

These are just a few of the many questions that deploying members who attend CAST have, but if they approach this with the right attitude and frame of mind they will reap the benefits of attending, once they deploy overseas.

Tech. Sgt. Eliezer Ortiz Jr., U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine aeromedical evacuation technician instructor at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and current CAST student, had some of those lingering questions before attending his class.

"I thought this was going to be an intense training for the next 10-11 days but I really did not know what to expect."

Ortiz has deployed three times before but never had to attend CAST.

"The ability to refresh my memory of skills like land navigation and small unit tactical training has already made this class worthwhile," said Ortiz. "I realized right away that this was just not another box to tick off but that it is providing the skills and training that I may have put into use on my next deployment."

Tech. Sgt. Higinio Fuentes, Camp AP CAST instructor for the last two years said most students have the same feeling as Ortiz when they first get to CAST.

"Most students arrive here nervous or on edge because they think this will be a venue like what is depicted on television, where as soon as the bus doors open, the yelling begins and the physical training starts," said Fuentes. "A lot are very surprised when they get here at how courteous and patient the cadres are and how willing the cadres are to ensure they understand what is being taught."

Lt. Col. Matt Wurst, 479th Flying Training Group assistant director of operations at Pensacola, Fla., and current CAST class leader, had his apprehensions, too, about attending this course.

"Initially I was very skeptical about attending this course as I had deployed seven times before and had never had to go through CAST," said Wurst. "From day one I was glad I did as the cadre at Camp AP showed they were going to be dedicated professionals. They set the tone right away that this was definitely going to be a worthwhile experience.

"Since students are involved from the first day with a robust schedule full of events and hands-on applications, I knew without a doubt that they were going to be given some of the most useful tools we would need down range."

Some of those events and hands-on applications include land navigation, vehicle convoy operations, small unit tactical training, weapons firing, improvised explosive device recognition and providing care under fire.

Each day is physically demanding on each and every student who attends CAST.

"Most students arrive to CAST under the assumption that it's not as physically demanding as rumored," said Staff Sgt. Earl Fisher Jr., Camp AP CAST instructor for the last eight months. "This is not true. It is a physically demanding class that involves your full attention, 100 percent effort and a good attitude."

The cadre at Camp AP say having a good attitude like that of Wurst and Ortiz make this experience much more productive and useful.

"Having a positive attitude for the duration of the training, being physically fit, paying attention to what is being taught, asking questions and coming prepared with all your equipment is what it takes to make it through CAST," said Staff Sgt. RJ Lawrence, Camp AP CAST instructor for the last two years.

"Most students arrive at CAST realizing that our training is unlike others they have experienced," said Lawrence. "Camp AP's field conditions help students realize that they are in fact in deploying soon and it gets them in the right frame of mind."

When it is all said and done, CAST training is about attitude and a commitment to completing the daily missions. It is about having the right frame of mind and understanding that skills taught here at Camp AP can help save your life, your friend's life or the life of another.

"You are getting training that no one else outside the Department of Defense will get," said Wurst. "To have this experience, you need to embrace it, you need to come here with a good attitude and give 110 percent. Let the cadre teach and learn from them as they prepare you for your next deployment."