By Capt. Charlie Dietz, 214th Fires Brigade Public Affairs OfficerAugust 22, 2014
FORT SILL, Okla. (Aug. 22, 2014) -- Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery teamed up with Airmen at Altus Air Force Base Aug. 14 during an emergency deployment readiness exercise that helped improve both services' mission capabilities.
After weeks of training, the Soldiers convoyed west to Altus with their four High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and more than 12 other support vehicles from the 578th Forward Support Company. Once arrived, the Soldiers, with the help of loadmaster Airmen from the 58th Airlift Squadron, loaded vehicles into an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft. This simulated the precise driving skills needed to deploy quickly during real-world combat situations.
"We were able to check the interoperability of the systems, but really, ensured readiness for both the Army side and the Air Force side," said Lt. Col. J.P. Maddaloni, 1-14th FA commander.
The "Steel Warriors" of 1-14 FA are fortunate to have an Air Force base close by, a luxury that the few other HIMARS battalions in the Army have.
"The training's just invaluable," said Capt. Robb Myers, A battery commander. "It's a great opportunity for the Soldiers, great opportunity for the young leaders that we've got in the battery, and it was a great opportunity for both the Air Force and the Army to combine efforts to accomplish one mission."
With the Airmen guiding the vehicles into the jet plane, accuracy was on everyone's mind as they knew that one wrong move would send the heavy launchers into the side of the aircraft. First Sgt. Carl Fryday said the Soldiers practiced their loading skills at a Fort Sill Directorate of Logistics facility with a cage set-up that mirrored the dimensions of the confined space in a C-17.
With hand and arm signals guiding section chief Staff Sgt. Kavon Isabell, the second HIMARS of the day entered the belly of the C-17 within centimeters of a resupply vehicle.
"All of this is geared toward ensuring readiness on both sides, so the Army knows we have the capability and are trained and proficient so we can rapidly deploy to areas that may need our support," said Fryday. "The same goes for the Air Force, so they get used to communicating with Army personnel, doing all the planning and the coordination, and instructing Army personnel to properly load the aircraft so in-flight everything is safe," he said.
Isabell, recently promoted, said he was extremely nervous during the training because aside from what he experienced at the mock training site at DOL, it was his first time backing up into such a tight area.
"It's a pretty tedious job. You really got to be on the ball as far as getting it onto the plane. We only had an inch to play with," said Isabell.
The teamwork between the services is what enabled him to load the launcher correctly and check off the first joint service operation for the battalion since their return from deployment in the United Arab Emirates earlier this year.
"Not only did it allow us to see their capabilities as far as their aircraft, but it showed them our capabilities," he said. If you put those two together, it makes us that much more of a lethal package, and I believe, ready to go when needed," he said.