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HomeNewsAviation and ground forces unite to improve tactics

Aviation and ground forces unite to improve tactics

Written by Sgt. Tracy Weeden
101st Combat Aviation Brigade

Fort Campbell KY, 101st Airborne DivisionWings of Destiny

MacDill Air Force Base, FL – The 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, conducted a multi-echelon training exercise called Jaded Thunder at MacDill Air Force Base and Avon Park outside of Tampa, FL, October 20th-30th, along with elements of the Air Force, ground forces and artillery.

The simulated battlefield was set up to resemble real-life scenarios in combat, to include a fully functioning forward arming and refueling point, mock villages and a forward operating base.

Lt. Col. William A. Ryan, 1st Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade commander shakes the hand of Chief Warrant Officer 2 Adam Marik, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Bn., 101st CAB Apache pilot before Marik's night operation during Jaded Thunder training exercise at MacDill Air Force Base, FL, Oct. 24th, 2011. The purpose of Jaded Thunder was to train on aviation tactics, techniques and procedures in a joint forces environment to prepare for the upcoming deployment. (Photo by Sgt. Tracy Weeden)
Lt. Col. William A. Ryan, 1st Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade commander shakes the hand of Chief Warrant Officer 2 Adam Marik, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Bn., 101st CAB Apache pilot before Marik's night operation during Jaded Thunder training exercise at MacDill Air Force Base, FL, Oct. 24th, 2011. The purpose of Jaded Thunder was to train on aviation tactics, techniques and procedures in a joint forces environment to prepare for the upcoming deployment. (Photo by Sgt. Tracy Weeden)

“The purpose was to train our aviators on the planning, preparation and execution of close fires in a joint environment,” said Lt. Col. William A. Ryan, 1st Battalion, 101st CAB commander. “Additionally, the training area and ammunition availability allowed our crews to gain great proficiency in shooting, moving and communicating skills without many constraints.”

The 101st CAB aviators practiced fire support together with Air Force aviators and ground force commanders as well as air assault operations with ground force units.

“Different elements from different battalions within the brigade worked together to make one power pack as a task organization,” said Staff Sgt. William Wilson, 1st Bn., 101st CAB operations non-commissioned officer in charge.

In a deployed environment, soldiers must be ready to operate in conjunction with different forces to provide the ground force commander with the most flexible aviation support possible. This is called a task force, which is composed of different support and tactical capacities in order to accomplish a single mission.

Soldiers conducted sustainment operations at the FARP, enabling the task force to shoot approximately 10,000 30 mm-caliber rounds, 1,600 2.75-inch rockets, and a myriad of .50-caliber rounds, said Ryan.

Along with the AH-64 attack helicopters and OH-58 scout helicopters, aircrews flying and maintaining the CH-47 Chinook helicopters were transporting personnel and air assaulting ground forces onto the situational battlefield, said Wilson.

Soldiers of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade work diligently to fuel the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter during daylight training operations at Avon Park, FL, Oct. 23rd, 2011 during Jaded Thunder, where they set up and ran their own forward arming and refueling point. (Photo by Sgt. Tracy Weeden)
Soldiers of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade work diligently to fuel the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter during daylight training operations at Avon Park, FL, Oct. 23rd, 2011 during Jaded Thunder, where they set up and ran their own forward arming and refueling point. (Photo by Sgt. Tracy Weeden)

“We had a great group of soldiers that executed critical command and control functions to ensure we maintained precise situational awareness of all operations at all times,” said Ryan. “Additionally, the team of aircraft maintainers executed 24-hour operations to ensure all 12 aircraft remained ready to launch and conduct operations.”

The task force operation required all elements to work fluidly with each other, similar to a combat environment. In addition to working together as a task force, the brigade was working jointly with the ground forces and Air Force to achieve a unanimous mission.

Our aviators have, and will continue to operate with special operations forces in many different tactical environments, said Ryan. It is critical for this type of training to be conducted at home stations to develop a familiarity with each other’s capabilities and methods of employment.

“These types of exercises build both confidence and teamwork.” Many of our leaders and soldiers are used to operating in aviation task forces, but as we conduct training in this ARFORGEN (Army Force Generation) cycle, there are a great deal of new soldiers that have joined the [Wings of] Destiny team,” said Ryan. “Jaded Thunder was a great, smaller scale exercise that introduced soldiers and leaders at all levels to operating in a task force construct, and resulted in tremendous teamwork among all elements.”

It was also a valuable experience to the pilots who have just joined 101st CAB Wings of Destiny.

The OH-58D Warrior Kiowa pilots and AH-64 Apache attack helicopter pilots fight in teams of two, allowing new pilots to learn the flying techniques of each aircraft within the task force, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Timothy Browne, C Troop, 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry, 101st CAB Kiowa pilot. They flew with veteran pilots, which strengthen their knowledge base and confidence to work together as a team in a deployed environment.

“There was a learning curve for the new pilots,” said Chief Warrant Officer Les NcNellie, A Company, 1st Bn., 101st CAB Apache pilot. “It built trust in them that we were able to complete the mission regardless of the situation.”

Soldiers of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade work diligently to fuel the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter during daylight training operations at Avon Park, Fla., Oct. 23, 2011 during Jaded Thunder, where they set up and ran their own forward arming and refueling point. (US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew McClure)
Soldiers of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade work diligently to fuel the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter during daylight training operations at Avon Park, Fla., Oct. 23, 2011 during Jaded Thunder, where they set up and ran their own forward arming and refueling point. (US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew McClure)

The pilots also gained trust and confidence in their maintenance crew chiefs.

“We always have the utmost confidence in our aircraft because the maintainers are so good at what they do,” said Browne. “We know the aircraft are safe because they work nonstop and are dedicated to making sure that the aircraft are maintained.”
Working alongside the maintainers at the FARP 24/7 were the aircraft armament and petroleum specialists, who kept the pilots supplied with the essential fuel and ammunition to continue their training.

Successfully working together as a task force requires teamwork, which was proven possible during this mission oriented training.

“The FARP personnel turned us around in 15 minutes, exceeding the standard of 20 to 25 minutes,” said McNellie. “We can’t accomplish our mission without those guys.”

“Our mission was to provide close combat attack for combined forces training,” said McNellie. “We trained in a deployment like scenario practicing TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures) to support the ground force commander’s intent.”

The training scenario ran smoothly and produced a rewarding outcome.

“The exercise was a great success and we look forward to participating again. Being able to deploy an aviation task force of our great destiny soldiers to execute our mission essential tasks in a realistic, repetitive manner in support of our ground forces is about as good as it gets,” said Ryan. “Our soldiers departed after the 10-day exercise more competent, confident, and comfortable in their wartime tasks.”

The aviators were training in a simulated battlefield, where the ground force commander had positive control over the area and all aircraft operating in that area, said Browne. It was a realistic environment where Army and Air Force aviators had the opportunity to practice aerial battle drills simultaneously with ground forces.

“We reaffirmed how relevant Army aviation is in the execution of joint and special operations, and the capability our assets can bring to the fight,” said Ryan.” The task force is very appreciative of the opportunity to work with our great professionals from our sister services in a great training environment.”

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