Driving in the Dark

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kellyann Novak
  • 108th Public Affairs Office
Imagine you are driving through hostile territory in pitch-black darkness and cannot use any form of lighting for fear of giving away your position to enemy forces. How can you safely maneuver through woods, over bridges, and around obstacles without putting yourself or fellow Airmen at risk?
The 108th Contingency Response Group teaches their members to do just that through night vision goggles training. The training was held on one of Fort Dix training ranges known as Driver Training Area, or DTA 3, at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Jan. 11.
Therefore, during January's Unit Training Assembly, a training class was held with approximately 20 Airmen in attendance. The students ranged in rank from airman first class to lieutenant colonel. Most of the Airmen were relatively new to the CRG and are working towards their Category I certification. Chief Master Sgt. Grieg Moore, 108th CRG superintendent, explained, "CAT I training certifies new members to be able to fulfill contingency response missions and awards the members a special education identifier. The training entails graduation from the expeditionary centers, a five-day Contingency Response Mission Orientation Course and completion of Contingency Response Job Qualification Standards." Night vision device training, vehicle operations with NVDs, and vehicle spotter with NVDs are required components of JQS.
"The NVG training that was conducted over drill is our NVG Phase I/II training," said Moore. "The course of instruction is designed to provide personnel with an orientation/familiarization with the proper use, care, and application of the PVS-7 Night Vision Goggles. Once the personnel are comfortable with the devices, Phase II instruction provides practical application while operating a HMMWV." 
A HMMWV, a high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle, is a four-wheel drive military tactical vehicle commonly used by the military to transport personnel and light cargo.
The NVG training is broken up into three phases of instruction. Phase I is familiarization with NVDs; Phase II is a practical application of using the NVGs while operating a tactical vehicle, and Phase III is Air Force Specialty Code specific for using NVGs while working with materials handling equipment and marshaling aircraft. By regulation, NVG Phase I and II are required initial training, and refresher training must be conducted within a 15-month time frame.
Consequently, the goal of the CRG is to complete the NVG refresher training on an annual basis. "Driving with NVGs, whether a HMMWV or MHE, is not an easy task," said Moore. "It is a highly perishable skill and we need to continually train to keep our qualification and be considered [mission ready]." This training is not only a basic requirement for the CRG initial CAT I training, but it also gives personnel the ability to work contingency operations in minimum lighting conditions.
"While working in minimum lighting conditions, our personnel are able to continue to do their job safely and effectively while minimizing their exposure to hostile forces," said Moore.
As one of only two CRG groups in the Air National Guard, with the other in Kentucky, the 108th CRG is a rapid-deployment unit designed at the initiative of Air Force leadership to be a first-in force that will secure an airfield and establish and maintain field operations. They are tailored for a specific mission and incorporate more than 20 military specialties, which comprises an approximately 120-person unit ready for deployment around the globe with no more than 12-hour notice. The 108th CRG provides the ability to rapidly establish and coordinate air mobility operations worldwide from established sites to austere operating areas in support of combat operations or humanitarian missions.
There are times where the CRG must provide initial airfield operations while working in low/minimum light conditions using night vision devices. Thus, in order to complete their mission, driving in the dark needs to be second nature for the Airmen of the CRG.