By Staff Sgt. Duane Duimstra, 114th Fighter Wing
/ Published May 09, 2017
Staff Sgt. Makayla McConnell, 114th Security Forces Squadron security response team member, instructs her fellow Airmen on proper tactical squad movements May 6, 2017, on a training site near Sioux Falls S.D. McConnell is the first female from the 114th Security Forces Squadron to attend and complete Combat Leadership School. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Duane Duimstra/Released)
Staff Sgt. Makayla McConnell, 114th Security Forces Squadron security response team member, is the first female from the 114th Security Forces Squadron to attend and complete the Combat Leadership School at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland AFB, Camp Bullis, San Antonio, Texas.
The course places a heavy emphasis on leadership, operation planning, and physical fitness.
“I wasn’t sure if I would be a good candidate to attend the course,” said McConnell. “It was encouraging that my leadership believed in my skill sets to complete this challenging course.”
Only two females attended out of 40 Active Duty, Guard and Reserve Security Forces Airmen. Training included basic and advanced techniques for air base defense, convoys, patrolling, urban warfare, and military operations other than war to prepare them to become effective squad leaders.
“The course trains future squad leaders how to lead a 13-man squad in a combat situation,” said Master Sgt. Chad Harris, 114th Security Forces NCOIC of training.
During the course, McConnell honed her skills on Air Base Defense Doctrine, operation planning, troop leading procedures, land navigation with compass and global positioning system, weapon employment, command and control tools and techniques, handling and securing enemy prisoners of war, displaced persons, and indigenous personnel.
The training had a direct correlation of the Airmen’s physical fitness. They performed Combat Agility Drills (CADs) instead of the typical Air Force fitness test. The purpose of CADs is to train the security forces Airmen to stay calm while under pressure or in stressful conditions. One of their CADs was a two mile ruck march carrying a minimum of a 35 lb. ruck sack, a 50 lb. ammo box, then immediately performing live-fire training after completing the ruck march.
“You definitely have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable because this course pushes you physically and mentally farther than what you imagined your body could do,” said McConnell.
Combat Leadership School is a challenging course that pushes Airmen to their limits. Airmen need to be highly motivated and physically fit to perform well in class and during combat scenario training. Completing the course alone is an accomplishment, and being the first female from the 114th Fighter Wing is a more motivation for McConnell to keep pushing the boundaries in the Air Force.
“It’s exciting because it shows females can do well in a male dominated career field,” said McConnell.