By Maranda FlynnJuly 29, 2013
FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. (July 29, 2013) -- Students from the 2-13th Aviation Regiment attending the 150U Warrant Officer Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems course, and the 15E Unmanned Aircraft Systems Repairer and 15W Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operator courses, trained side-by-side in a culminating training exercise for the first time in Fort Huachuca's history, July 15-17, 2013.
Typically, a field exercise is held during each 15E and 15W advanced individual training cycle so enlisted students can apply the information taught in the classroom in a hands-on environment. However, the six-week 150U course that warrant officers are required to attend has previously consisted only of classroom instruction with no "on-the-job" training.
As advisers and subject matter experts, the warrant officers are expected to understand how to solve problems and provide advice on unmanned aircraft systems, known as UAS, tactics, techniques, procedures, capabilities and architecture in a tactical situation.
Based on the evaluations and feedback of prior students, Capt. Janmichael Guillermo, commander, Company D, 2-13th Aviation Regiment, decided the 150U course needed improvement. As an approach to better the course, he chose to blend the enlisted and warrant officer students during the culminating training exercise, or CTX.
Beyond the benefit of hands-on training, Guillermo explained that this was most likely the first time enlisted Soldiers were in a field-training environment with warrant officers, which provided an additional training benefit to Soldier training.
"It's good exposure between warrant officer and enlisted ranks at the same time," he said.
During the CTX, the students trained on various tasks such as emplacing and displacing the UAS on different sites, radio and data setup, UAS flight training, first aid, battle drills and battle update briefings, allowing both parties to become familiar with the communication and interaction necessary in a tactical environment.
The 150U course manager, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Ron Booth, has served in the U.S. Army for 26 years. Throughout his career, he has been involved in many similar CTXs but this is the first time the warrant officers have actually been active participants in the UAS CTX exercise.
"What we are doing now is incorporating [the warrant officers] into the CTX, and they are actually getting hands-on experience on how to be a platoon leader, how to be a mission commander, how to emplace and displace the [UAS] systems, and how to become a battle captain in a tactical situation," said Booth.
When asked what portion of the CTX was most anticipated, the warrant officers expressed a combination of excitement and anxiety. Prior to the start of their class, they did not know about the plans for the first combined training exercise.
With only two weeks of planning, the joint CTX encountered a few hiccups. The warrant officers were not equipped with the correct gear for overnight training situations, last-minute changes were occurring up until the start of the event, and inclement weather resulted in fewer UAS flying opportunities than anticipated.
"The concept is exceptional," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 John Hoskin, one of the four warrant officers attending the course. "The idea behind combining the two [groups], seeing as eventually we are going to be working together, is sound. We are going through some growing pains as they try to figure out how to integrate us, where we need to come together, at what point during the training do we need to start integrating the two courses, but it is understandable considering that this is something new and that they are trying to work out."
Terri Deppa, a 150U course instructor, explained that even though the training was not originally scheduled at the start of the class, the students and staff adapted as needed.
"I think its going to be good for them to go through this and let the staff and the command know how well the CTX worked for them, where the improvements need to be made or where they excelled," she said. "This is ultimately where we [instructors] envision them being, being more of a participant in the CTX and actually going through the whole thing."
"We are taking all of these concepts that we have learned in the past five weeks, what our job is going to be and what each system does, and we are turning that book knowledge into experience," said Hoskin. "It will send us out to future units with a limited amount, but at least some, exposure. I think it's a great opportunity."
Overall, the students' joint involvement in the CTX will prove invaluable for future 150U warrant officers, the Soldiers under their command and the Army as a whole since they will now train in the joint environment in which they will actually work.