By Mrs. Melissa Buckley (Leonard Wood)March 19, 2015
Fort Leonard Wood's Cannon Range is not usually a training area used by Basic Combat Training Soldiers, but one battalion is trying to change that.
The 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Chemical Brigade, sent about 350 Soldiers-in-training and cadre, on March 10, to the range primary used by the Missouri Air National Guard to participate in a Joint Firepower Training exercise.
While on Cannon Range, Soldiers practiced map reading, targeting, how to send radio messages, how to send a close-air-support request and a close combat attack requests to support ground forces.
"Being able to successfully complete any mission greatly depends on your ability to navigate. One radio has the power to save lives, destroy enemies and get intelligence. We wanted our Soldiers to know this," said Capt. Grace Lee, 1st Bn. 48th Inf. Reg. operations officer.
According to the unit's commander, Lt. Col. Shane Gries, the intent of the exercise was not only to teach the fundamentals of working with a combat aircraft, but also to show the Soldiers-in-training how the Army integrates with other services to operate in a combined arms environment.
Airmen from the 146th Air Support Operations Squadron, located at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, were on Cannon Range for mandatory training.
Between completing their own requirements, they made some time to train with the new Soldiers.
Air Force Maj. Christopher Gries, 146th Air Support Operations Squadron director of operations, said even though his unit was providing the instruction, his Airmen were getting as much out of the training opportunity as the Soldiers.
"As joint-terminal-attack controllers, our primary job is to support the Army with close-air support," Gries said.
"One of our mottos in the air support operations community is "Advise, Assist, Control and Instruct." A good portion of our career is spent with infantry units teaching the Soldiers what the Air Force can provide for them. This is a great opportunity for my folks to practice those skills," he added.
Tech Sgt. Fred Moreton, 146th Air Support Operations Squadron, joint-terminal-attack-controller instructor chief, said precision is key when passing information to pilots. Moreton helped the Soldiers by guiding the Soldiers through the proper use of the Close Air Support 9-line briefing form.
"The biggest thing for them to learn is that calling airstrikes and getting bombs on target is complicated. I want them to leave here with the ability to use a map to get targeting data," Moreton said.
The classes were followed by a live-firepower exercise with two A-10 Thunderbolts, commonly known as the "Warthog," and two AH-64 Apache helicopters.
"We had the (public address) system set up, so that we could hear the radio communication between the joint-terminal-attack-controller and pilots of the A-10 Warthogs and AH-64 Apaches. We heard the CCA and CAS requests that were being sent to the pilots and then saw the aircraft fly in for the attack. The Soldiers-in-training were able to connect the vital significance of being proficient in map reading and talking on a radio," Lee said.
The 146th ASOS coordinated with the 303rd Fighter Squadron, Missouri Air Force National Guard, to incorporate the live training by flying in the aircraft.
According to Lee, the battalion is tentatively scheduled to conduct another Joint-Firepower Training exercise again in September.