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Master Sgt. Alex Easterbrooks and Spc. Brett Hicks, 75th Fires Brigade, point out a target from on top of Thompson Hill Tower Complex Aug. 17 as part of Operation Diamond Inferno. The two worked with other Soldiers from Fort Sill as well as Marines and Sailors as part of the huge joint exercise meant to practice joint operations as they would be conducted in battle.

FORT SILL, Okla.-- Like a giant puzzle made of military pieces, Operation Diamond Inferno just came together. The exercise was a melting pot of services as each played their part in training for real-world combat.

On Aug. 17 Soldiers from 75th Fires Brigade, as well as Marines and Sailors from 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, landed on Thompson Hill Tower Complex. B Company, 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment from Olathe, Kan. made the trip to Fort Sill to train and add an extra layer of realism to the exercise by dropping them off from a CH-47 Chinook.

Once they were on the ground the scenario unfolded: A group of insurgents was upset over recent attacks by U.S. forces. The mission control the enemy's retaliation with counter fire.

The group assaulted the ridge line and made sure a mock village was secure. Then they took up positions and started setting up communications.

Unlike the cell phone commercials, getting a signal out was somewhat of a challenge. After an antenna was set up at the highest point, radio operators and forward observers went to work while 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery waited for target information with M109 Paladins ready.

"With everything we do we have to be able to communicate. If we can't effectively communicate to the decision makers back in the Tactical Air Control Party (and the Paladins on the gun line, we have the ability to make mistakes," said Col. Roderick Herron, 75th FiB. "The whole goal of today is, first and foremost, safety. Secondly, it is to provide a realistic training environment for these great fire supporters, both Marines and Army. So if they have to go to Afghanistan or anywhere that our nation calls us to go and deliver effective fires we know that they are trained."

Once the lines of communication were open and the target location was acquired the radio operators communicated the coordinates to the Fire Direction Center. After a long pause "Shot" was called out and seconds later explosions were seen in the distance.

Lt. Brian Jamison, 1st ANGLICO, looked through laser rangefinders to see just how accurate the rounds were. Calculations were made and adjustments were shared and the next set of rounds were fired.

"The way that the gun line works is they're usually in a linear formation. With an immediate suppression they're only going to calculate the data for the center gun and all the same data is going to the others. So although it may be just a little inch here or there on the gun line, when it travels 4 or 5 kilometers it makes a huge difference," said 1st Lt. Dan Allridge, 1st ANGLICO.

After several more rounds were fired, it was declared all of the targets were destroyed and about 40 elk on the range were scared out of their minds.

Just as the men may have thought the training exercise was over, a twist was added as one of the Marines was told he was hit by enemy forces.

Side by side the Soldiers, Marines and a Navy corpsman carried the assumed injured party while the rest pulled 360 degrees of security. They practiced first aid just as aviation support touched down. The Chinook returned in the field flattening the surrounding grass from its dual blades.

The Marine was carried once more to safety and those training left the ground with a better understanding of how the different services would support one another.

"It's coming along great. This is the first time I've done this but it's a good integration because they're making us a part of their team and every mission so far has been not just one single ownership but an integrated team effort," said Master Sgt. Alex Easterbrooks, 75th FiB.

75th FiB was in charge of the exercise but stated they received help from all over post with 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade and other units participating.

75th FiB stated this is the highest level of training these troops can received without having actual opposing forces present and plan on holding more at Fort Sill in the future.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16