Lights outs; night vision only
January 10, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas -- While the sun set in the west, Wolfpack Soldiers rose in the north.
Three teams equipped with night vision goggles inserted into an "enemy" area by CH-47 Chinook helicopters. Once the helicopters touched the ground, the Soldiers unloaded their special cargo, along with three Humvees and operation Tracker Strike commenced.
Soldiers with Battery A, 26th Field Artillery Regiment (Target Acquisition Battery), 41st Fires Brigade, air assaulted into the dark of the night to secure an area, protect their cargo, find their current grid location and convoy back to friendly territory during a joint-service training mission on Fort Hood, Texas, Jan. 5.
The TAB artillerymen participated in a mission readiness exercise to help troopers of the 171st Aviation Battalion, with the Georgia National Guard, prepare for their upcoming deployment.
"Through connections at Division West, we found out about the 171st Aviation Battalion MRX and we assisted them as the offensive force," said Capt. Dashiell Ballarta, commander for the Bat. A, 26th FA Regt. (TAB).
"Operation Tracker Strike had dual purpose. First, the aviation battalion was able to insert a small team into position according to their mission plan. Second, we got experience moving internal loads in CH-47s, traveling across longer distances, conducting night mounted land navigation and small convoy operations."
As the Chinook took off, Teams A and C secured the perimeter as point men. Sgt. Luis Garcia made quick work of locating Wolfpack's current location.
"I'm fortunate to be in a unit that prides itself with good training," said Garcia. "I'm even comfortable using the night vision goggles because a lot of units rarely do night training."
Once Garcia had his grid coordinates he was able to plot a convoy route back home.
"Nighttime brings a whole new perspective to land navigation," said Garcia. "Land navigation is difficult with the sun up. I'm just glad that this isn't my first training at night. It takes time working under limited visibility."
"It's pretty paramount that every unit conducts night training; refining our ability to own the night using special thermal equipment or night vision goggles that we have at our disposal to extend our operational and tactical abilities," said Ballarta.
Before beginning the last half of their training, the Wolfpack Soldiers conducted a quick after-action review to discuss the good and bad from the training.
"It's very important to train at all hours of the day. You never know when or at what time a situation calls you to duty," said Spc. Blake Essex. "So it's important to always be prepared. Unfortunately, war doesn't live on a time table."
This training mission further prepares TAB Soldiers for their upcoming non-firing radar certification exercise, where they will operate, maintain, and employ a radar in a contingency operation in support of the 41st Fires Bde.