'Guardians' of the Sky 101st BSB Soldiers keep Kirkuk skies safe for military aircraft
August 16, 2011
CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE WARRIOR, Iraq " Soldiers of "Guardians," 101st Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Advise and Assist Task Force, 1st Infantry Division, conducted Counter Surface-to-Air Improvised Explosive Device patrol operations around Contingency Operating Site Warrior, Iraq, Aug. 14, 2011.
"The purpose of the mission is to deter, stop, or prevent enemy set up and firing of surface-to-air missiles or surface-to-air IEDs at military aircraft," said Staff Sgt. Jonathan Grape, a tactical operations noncommissioned officer, assigned to 101st BSB.
The Guardian's presence alone is probably the best deterrent from these attacks, said Grape, a Leavenworth, Kan., native. A show of force disrupts Violent Extremist Network plans for hitting undefended aircraft.
As aircraft approach the airport, the enemy may conduct anti-air tactics to disrupt the aircraft, said Maj. Edward Huddleston, operations officer for BSB. He added Guardians patrol outside the wire in order to disrupt the enemy and to allow aircraft safe travel.
The operations require close coordination between many elements at COS Warrior, said Huddleston. Staff of 1st Inf. Bn., 1st AATF, must keep in contact with 101st BSB to ensure that they are updated on the most current flight operations.
Although Guardians were primarily structured to provide logistics support for a 4,000-Soldier fighting force, operational requirements demanded 101st BSB assume force-protection duties.
"This is a meaningful and exhilarating mission that is not normally done by the logistical forces in the Army," said Huddleston, a 19-year veteran from Springfield, Ill. "As we close on Operation New Dawn, units are required, on a daily basis, to conduct new missions that are not normally in their spectrum of operations. This deployment, the battalion continues to do more and more non-traditional missions."
Preparation and teamwork are essential to the BSB's mission.
"It's good that the COS is being proactive," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Shane Nicholson, an OH-58D Kiowa helicopter pilot, assigned to the 617th Cavalry Regiment, 40th Combat Aviation Brigade. "I help develop our anti-SAM tactics. The unit's intent is a good one, but we must be able to change and adapt to what the enemy might do next."
Adaptability, surprise, and a reevaluation of tactics, as time goes on, are essential to ensuring the anti-SAM mission stays effective, said Nicholson, who hails from Missoula, Mont.
"The missions are successful," said Grape. "There have been no reports of attacks or attempts on any of our aircraft since we started the mission."