North Dakota Soldiers Learn How to Locate Downed Pilots in Black Hills
June 22, 2010
RAPID CITY, S.D. - Third platoon of the 191st Military Police Company successfully located 12 "downed enemy pilots" throughout the course of three training exercises designed to teach them search tactics. The training was part of the North Dakota Army National Guard unit's annual training during Golden Coyote, a two-week training exercise hosted by the South Dakota National Guard in Rapid City, S.D.
The exercise was a "search and destroy" mission for the Military Police and took place across six square miles of forest in the Black Hills. The pilots involved in the exercise were training for a homeland security mission, preparing for the possibility of their aircraft crashing in hostile territories. The exercise gave both sides the opportunity to train and learn as they faced each other as simulated enemy forces.
The first exercise for the Soldiers was to attempt to find seven pilots before they made it to their final checkpoint, the pilots having started the exercise about 20 hours earlier.
"We were briefed that there were seven downed enemy aviators that needed to be found," said Staff Sgt. Cody J. Johnson, of Bismarck, N.D., platoon sergeant for third platoon. "Our mission was to search and destroy."
The downed pilots managed to evade capture during this first exercise, giving them a situational "win" while providing a learning opportunity for the Military Police. A helicopter arrived to airlift the pilots out, who were then replaced by nine new pilots.
The second exercise began at a rock quarry, where the nine pilots were given a 15-minute head start to go conceal themselves, giving third platoon 45 minutes to locate them while they remained immobile. Five of the nine pilots were found by Pfc. Tiffany J. Lewis, of Kindred, N.D.
"The great thing about training like this is while it's 'search and destroy,' it can be referenced to actual search and rescue missions, such as the Dru Sjodin case seven years ago," Johnson said.
The final exercise was for the Military Police to locate the pilots as they were on the move through the entire area attempting to find four map points. The exercise had no time limit, as long as they were finished before nightfall. The Soldiers located seven of the nine pilots as they crossed the road from one area to the next. This brought their day's total to 12 "enemies" successfully captured.
Previously, no platoon of the 191st had found more than two pilots throughout the course of the three exercises.
"I think over the last few days, things have gone extremely well," said Sgt. 1st Class Mark Scharn, of the South Dakota National Guard Joint Force Headquarters, who was responsible for planning the exercise. "The MPs have done well - from being skunked the first night to doing really well the final day. Everybody has a pretty sharp learning curve."
Johnson said the training they received covered areas such as vehicle operations, as they were driving in Humvees and Armored Squad Vehicles for two of the exercises, as well as land navigation, cover and concealment, and search and rescue.
"We have learned a lot in the past few days," Scharn said. "Next year will be bigger and better."
Nearly 2,200 service members are taking part in South Dakota's 26th annual Golden Coyote training exercise June 14-26. The exercise provides relevant training opportunities in support of overseas contingency operations and homeland defense.
<i>Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 3,500 Soldiers and more than 1,800 Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Currently, about 600 North Dakota Guardsmen are serving overseas. With a total force of about 4,400 Soldiers and Airmen, sufficient forces remain in the state for emergency response and homeland defense.
High-resolution photos are available on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/NDGuard. Navigate to the photo set titled, "Golden Coyote 2010."