By Capt. Charlie Dietz, 214th Fires Brigade PAOSeptember 26, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla. -- The 168th Brigade Support Battalion visited Camp Gruber, Okla., Sept. 13-20 for Operation Joint Eagle, a field training exercise with Air Force and Army National Guard service members.
Joint Eagle is a multi-site domestic response exercise designed to create realistic and challenging training for participating units at each training site, which includes Chilocco, Ponca City, Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Camp Gruber.
The exercise scenario was based on the destruction caused by multiple tornadoes and the response and relief efforts following. Some of the scenarios given to the battalion included generator support, delivering necessities to areas that were inaccessible to ground troops, search and recovery, crowd control and water purification with delivery.
"The exercise is a great opportunity for the battalion to train on our key logistical tasks along with National Guard units from multiple states and civilian agencies to include the Tulsa Police Department. Based on weather we've seen in the past, we can see how valuable this training is in partnering with other units and agencies to help bring relief to affected areas," said Lt. Col. Mark Mays, 168th BSB commander.
The exercise trained Soldiers in some requirements they haven't experienced before. With the help of the Airmen they worked through riot control and joint mortuary affairs training scenarios. Maj. Michael Taylor, battalion special projects officer, said Soldiers alternately portrayed rioters and the responding police force. The riot police training equipped Soldiers with riot shields and other equipment, along with tactics to control mobs.
At night and away from the distractions of daily tasks at Fort Sill, battalion leaders held professional development classes, such as how to do thorough preventive maintenance checks and services (PMCS) and logistical status reports.
"We are doing everything we can to minimize spending throughout the battalion and a big way to save is making sure that a quality PMCS is done on all our equipment so we can fix the problem before it becomes a bigger problem and ends up costing more," said Mays.
An event that the Soldiers seemed to really enjoy was having a heavy M1078 tactical vehicle stuck in chest-deep mud and pulling it out with an M984A4 wrecker. The wrecker employed a winch retrieval system with a half-inch thick cable to haul out the foundered vehicle. Soldiers learned to first measure the mire level based upon how far the water and mud came onto the tires. Using that information, they figured out how much effort was needed to pull out the truck.
If their calculations were wrong, the cable could snap and severely injure or kill a bystander. Because of that possibility, Soldiers not in the wrecker stayed out of harm's way.
Taking advantage of the lake at Camp Gruber, water purification teams perfected their craft of meeting a unit's daily water needs. Once the purification system, termed a tactical water purification system (TWPS), is set up and running, thirsty Soldiers have one less distraction.
"We can get this water from the lake to the drinking cups in around a minute," said Capt. Bryan Metcalf, A Company commander. "We can purify 1,500 gallons an hour for 20 hours a day, providing support to a whole brigade."
When the brigade commander came to observe the training, the Soldiers tested their purified water versus bottled water from a major drink company. The water purified from the TWPS had a total dissolved solid (TDS) level of 1.5 where as the bottled water had a TDS level of 71, much less pure than the purified lake water.
TDS is the amount of mobile charged ions, including minerals, salts or metals dissolved in a given volume of water, expressed in milligrams per unit volume of water. It is directly correlated to the purity of water and the quality of water purification systems; ultimately, it affects everything that consumes, lives in or uses water.
The field work also included basic core competencies every Soldier needs to refine weapons training. The battalion set up a reflexive fire range, different from a typical qualification range. Through it, Soldiers practiced quickly engaging nearby targets to prepare properly for close-quarters battle in an urban environment.
The goal for the reflexive fire range is to hit the target not only accurately, but as fast possible. The range tested the speed of the troops by having them walk in a formation then hear where their target is. Once they knew their target, they took a steady firing stance and engaged the target immediately. Fast moving ranges are essential for combat Soldiers may face down-range, because engaging the enemy could happen at any time.