June 3, 2014
KUWAIT - It was the 6th of May with the hot sun blistering down and the temperature soaring past 100 degrees. The wind was sporadically blowing like a hot hair blow dryer and offered the same relentless conditions to anyone that is brave enough to endure and deploy to an arid location; however, the Soldiers of the 17th Field Artillery Brigade Air Defense Airspace Management/Brigade Aviation Element (ADAM/BAE) Cell and 1-44th Air Defense Artillery (ADA) Regiment endured the harsh conditions as they conducted a site visit of the Regiment's Patriot Tactical site, located within the U.S. Army Central Command's area of responsibility.
The visit was an eye-opener when comes to the vast amount of work, knowledge, and equipment that is needed to run a Patriot Tactical site. The Soldiers from 17th FA Brigade included Capt. Ronald Garner, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Thomas Koenig, Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Hennessy, and Sgt. Brandon Baldwin. Capt. Gerran Alexander, the Bravo Battery commander, served as the liaison and tour guide for the ADAM/BAE Cell personnel. The visit served two purposes, to build a working relationship and to help create a shared understanding of the battlefield's airspace in the event of a conflict.
While visiting the Bravo Battery Command Post, the ADAM/BAE Cell Soldiers were able to ask questions of the individual system operators within Bravo Battery BCP.
Pfc. Eric Wankovsky and Pfc. Frank Marineau, two enhanced early warning systems operators, indicated that their primary job was to provide situational awareness of the area inside and outside the Patriot's radar field of view. They are able to use this information to provide a real-time real-world air picture for the battery commander, first sergeant, and other key personnel in order to help decipher between friendly and enemy elements on multiple levels before the Engagement Control Station (ECS) can engage.
At the battalion-level operations center, Sgt. Jameson Willprecht works in the Fire Direction Section (FDS) as a Tactical Director Assistant (TDA). He serves as the intermediary between the brigade and the individual firing batteries. His main task is to decide which of the batteries has the highest probability of kill of either an incoming Tactical Ballistic Missile (TBM) or an enemy Air Breathing Threat (ABT) and then allows that battery to engage and destroy that enemy threat.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Thomas Washington, the Battalion Command and Control Systems Integrator, works relentlessly to integrate and maintain the wide array of Air Defense Artillery networking computer systems to ensure that the flow of information is operational from the battalion level all the way down to the battery launching systems.
In order to make sure that everyone can communicate within the battalion and that the batteries are ready to defend their assets, each month 1-44th ADA conducts a series of Operational Readiness Exercises or OREs. These OREs serve as an all-inclusive exercise that the firing batteries must conduct in order to certify that they are able to provide air defense of their assigned assets. This includes reloading of launchers, processing air tracks to higher, and simulating a TBM attack and/or an ABT attack.
Furthermore, in order to enhance this training, the 1-44th ADA is now integrating the newest Re-configurable Table Top Trainer (RT3) systems to help provide a modern simulated training event. This will help increase the proficiency of the individual Soldiers, operators and the unit as a whole.
At the conclusion of the tour, it was quite obvious that Capt. Gerran Alexander was excited about the relationships that his unit had developed with the local national ADA firing units and other collocated units within the A/O. Alexander stated, "We are providing a valuable asset to the fight. We are not always visible, but we remain always ready."
The future looks bright for the communication and flow of information within 1-44th ADA Regiment. Understanding what each unit brings to the fight and being co-located with 17th FAB's ADAM cell is merely half of the battle - practicing, through exercise, and coordinating with each other consistently is what will make both units a success in the near future.