301 FW EM Airman excels, manages emergencies

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kedesha Pennant
  • 301st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The phrase, “do more with less,” can unintentionally have a negative connotation to it. For Senior Airman Lawrence Johnson, 301st Fighter Wing Civil Engineer Squadron emergency management specialist, he looked at it with a positive approach when first coming into his low-manned EM shop.

Johnson joined the Air Force in March 2018 as a Traditional Reservist and has been with the 301st FW since November 2018. He recently earned his 5-level as a journeyman in upgrade training in the midst of an international emergency that his career field specifically is designed to confront. All young Airmen are charged to improve and progress to proficiency, however, SrA Johnson had to do it while meeting the historic challenge head-on.

“It was probably the best hands on training I could have possibly received,” Johnson said. “It was definitely no small task, but it’s rewarding to know that you’re capable of doing your job and that you still have room to grow and get better.”

Since Johnson’s supervisor is currently deployed, he has been given more responsibilities in his unit. Since January 2020, Johnson has taught over 40 chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear classes, which is typically a journeyman’s job. His other roles include assisting with running the emergency operations center and training commanders and EOC representatives. Over the course of the pandemic, the 301st FW EM office operations tempo has understandably been high.

“[In the] EM world currently, there is a big focus on preparedness while trying to continue to mitigate the large situations like with the wildfires on the west coast,” Johnson said. “Anytime something like COVID-19 takes place, it usually spurs [us] to review and revise [our] plans on how to be prepared for such situations.”

One example of how the EM office prepares is by supporting the annual Airmen Readiness Training Exercise, known as ARTEX, which helps the wing accomplish its mission—to train and deploy combat-ready Airmen. The ARTEX is an evolving 48-hour exercise in its third year. Every unit within the 301 FW, train and execute their respective roles in a simulated deployed environment that has to overcome challenges like communication shortages, biological attacks, injured Airmen, and base attacks in order to keep their mission and jets flying under the watchful eye of the Air Force Reserve Command and wing inspection teams. EM enables the process and channels to help wing leadership communicate the contingencies necessary to overcome these challenges to accomplish mission success safely and efficiently. After successfully accomplishing and processing the latest campaign training last November, EM has used lessons learned from ARTEX and applied them to the real-world pandemic.

“Knowing the structure of the EOC and how information flows down from the commander to each individual, it definitely helps to see it [in training] so I can better apply it in a [real-world pandemic] situation,” Johnson said. “[When I was] an airman 1st class giving recommendations to a lieutenant colonel, it was kind of nerve-racking, but it helped to understand the importance of my craft and how leadership depends on my expertise to be used when situations like these call for it.”

With his newfound knowledge and myriad of experiences, Johnson says it make him more comfortable with being able to handle multiple tasks while being accurate and professional. He understands the significance of his role as it comes with a lot of trust.

“We have to think in advance, and be proactive,” Johnson said. “[Our EM director] says 80 percent of our job should be preparedness and 20 percent should be us reacting to things we haven’t prepared for.”

Through it all, the Chickasha, Oklahoma native enjoys his profession. He’s also in school for emergency management and hopes to get into the career field on the civilian side as well.

 “Honestly, being in EM is fun because of the team we have,” Johnson said. “We all work hard when it’s time to work, and we enjoy ourselves when the work is done. There is a lot of responsibility, throughout the wing, whether it be training members, reviewing and updating plans or planning exercises. Looking at the big picture, it’s quite a fulfilling job.”

What solidified his hard work was Johnson being elected as the 301st Fighter Wing’s Warrior of the Month for September 2020.

“I’m proud to represent the EM office because anything that EM has done has been a team effort,” Johnson said. “There may be only one person receiving the awards and accolades, but the team is the reason we can accomplish what we have. I feel like I’ve grown a lot this year [as a result].”

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