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A Spouse’s Perspective on the OREs and ORI

DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- It is obvious to anyone living on base these past few months--things have not been ordinary at Dyess Air Force Base. We've all heard the alarm go off several times and then the Big Voice telling us it was only an "EXERCISE! EXCERCISE! EXERCISE!" The first time I heard that, I was half-asleep and thought it was God telling me to get out of bed and into shape. Once my head cleared, I realized the ORE was underway.

As a spouse, what does that mean to me?

Basically, be prepared to eat more than a few dinners by yourself. Keep cool as you watch your spouse rush out at odd times of the day and night sometimes wearing a suit that looks like he might be contemplating a career in space. I think my husband and I might have spoken ten sentences to each other this whole week. Nine of which were in passing as I pulled into the garage and he pulled out. You might ask yourself what all the fuss is about--

Well, here is this military spouse's perspective on the OREs and ORI.

There are two ways to look at what is going on around us--the official Air Force regulation way and the I'm-here-because-I-love-my-Airman way. First, let's take a look at the most basic of 'need to know' information crucial for a Dyess Air Force Base spouse.

What the heck is an ORE?

Official Definition for ORE - (Operation Readiness Exercise) A way to prepare for the ORI.
All right....then what the heck is an ORI?

ORIs are inspections conducted to evaluate and measure the ability of a unit to perform in wartime, during a contingency or a force sustainment mission, according to Air Force Instruction 90-201, Inspector General Activities. Every wing undergoes an ORI approximately every five years.

Yeah, yeah, yeah...but what does that mean for me, the spouse?

It means you and your loved one are stationed at Dyess Air Force Base during "that special time." The inspection cometh, my friend, and you are here to witness the legendary event.

This means 12-hour shifts, tired spouses, cancelling date-nights, cranky mates, inconvenient schedules, lots of strange acronyms, unusual uniforms and bulky equipment. It also may mean taking time to make cookies, snacks and sandwiches for the overworked, tired and hungry Airmen that work day and night to make sure Team Dyess passes the inspection. Nothing too terrible. It's to be expected when you're married to an American hero, right?

I'm not one of those wives who are savvy enough to remember all the acronyms my husband drags home with him from the office. Sometimes I think he's making them up just to sound official when he's on his Blackberry during dinner.

"Yes, blah, blah blah..UCC...blah blah blah."

I like to try to make up my own definitions. I'm thinking, "UCC...hmmm...Unified Camp for Clowns? No. Ubiquitous Crates for Carnivores? Naw. United Chamber of Clairvoyants? Cool!

"Honey, what is a UCC?"

"Unit Control Center."

Rather anti-climatic, but true. The UCC is the place where it all happens. The main desk. The epicenter for the unit's information.

Getting around all the acronyms...what is all the ruckus about?

Simply put, the ORE means our spouses are practicing for the BIG inspection where they will be evaluated on how well they respond to force protection conditions and alarms. During this time, they will be tested on their ability to identify, mark, report and avoid post-attack hazards. It's crucial they know what to do and be able to perform self-aid and buddy care.

Why is this important?

First, I must say whenever I hear the term 'buddy-care' it makes me smile. It sounds so cute, so fun. I have a mental image of my husband and his buddies drinking beer taking care to toast the United States Air Force. Well, although buddy-care sounds like a good time, it is serious business. In fact, rest assured if your spouse becomes injured, someone around will be medically trained in what to do. Why? Because they were trained in buddy-care. Now that I know what it is, I really like the term.

Why is my spouse working all kinds of crazy shifts and why does he/she have overwhelming amounts of extra work?

Well, they must be prepared for an attack at any time of day or night and must be ready to deal with the situation at a moment's notice. Now, if the enemy was polite enough to give us fair warning and only attack Monday-Friday from 8-4:30, then our Airmen probably wouldn't have to scramble out of bed at 3:00 am to practice. We should really have more polite and time-considerate enemies, though. It wouldn't hurt.

When is this inspection of which I speak?

May 14-18. So until then, your spouse has been practicing and might continue to practice in order to be ready for the BIG inspection by the IG team.

What is an IG team?

I think it should stand for Irritating Guy-who-makes-everyone-work, but it really stands for Inspector General team. These are the people who will evaluate the overall performance of Team Dyess on a five-tier scale of "outstanding, excellent, satisfactory, marginal and unsatisfactory."

What does this mean to the spouses?

This is what it means in simple terms...if Dyess scores below "satisfactory" Team Dyess must test again and the whole series of exercises before the re-inspection begins all over again.

So, spouses, we want to do everything we can to achieve the Outstanding score! We know our men and women here at Dyess are capable of doing the best job in the Air Force. Now all we need to do is show the rest of Air Combat Command what we already know.

But what can we do?

Be supportive. Be prepared for drastic changes in schedules and routines. Do not make any plans that cannot be broken during this time. Do not decide this is a great time to repaint your entire house, build that 2,000-square foot addition, plant 12-acres of crops or even potty train your toddler. I'd suggest you steer clear of anything that requires your spouse to carry his/her half of the burden on any household project. Also, take my word for this one. Do not attempt to drag your spouse to a long, hot day at Six Flags after a 12-hour shift even if you have free-tickets. It is not a good idea. Trust me. Be flexible and go with the flow for a few weeks.

During the ORI, our spouses are required to know and understand the procedures in the Airman's Manual. Each unit must work within itself and as an integral part of the bigger picture of Team Dyess. Understandably, this takes practice, so hold on tight and be patient.

Sure, OREs and the ORI are inconvenient and exhausting, but imagine if they didn't have these exercises. Would you want your spouse or someone on your spouse's team to panic because he or she didn't know what to do during an attack? Or would you rather each person be trained and instinctively know how to handle a crisis?
During a real crisis situation would not be the ideal time for your loved one to find out they really didn't know how to properly wear a gas mask or that they're missing a boot from their Chem-gear bag. That's exactly why they must practice until they get to a satisfactory level of performance. It's not a military-thing...it's a life or death thing.

Bottom line...what does all this all mean to the spouse?

We want Team Dyess to get an Outstanding on its evaluation so we can be confident that everyone knows what to do in an emergency. We don't want people running this way and that way looking for extra gloves, gas masks or the phone number for the UCC. We don't want our Airmen rushing from place to place looking for someone to direct them on what to do next. They will KNOW what to do and they will do it with confidence and skill.
This is stressful for all involved. The team members (even non-playing members) must be on guard and listening for the alerts. It's hot here in Texas and our spouses are expected to don even more layers on top of their ABUs. Sometimes they must stay in these monstrous-looking things for a long time and it's hot and uncomfortable.

Overall, what the OREs and ORI mean to the spouse:

You might trip over the chem-gear bag they left by the door in the middle of the night. Or you will smell something odd coming from their chem-gear piled on the floor in the laundry room. You might wonder if there were real chemicals involved in the simulated attack--don't panic. Check the glove liners. That's not chemical warfare. That's just the smell of sweaty hands in West Texas heat. Relax and see to it they are washed regularly or you might be tempted to don the gas mask yourself.

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