Training to Maintain Tactical Proficiency
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FORT SILL, Okla. -- To train as you fight is a term that is not lost upon Soldiers in the U.S. Army. Whether they are preparing for an upcoming mission or keeping their skilled honed to perfection, being able to train as they fight is crucial to maintaining proficiency.

Air Defense Leaders in 4th Battalion, 3rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade were given the challenge "to train as they fight in a deployed environment" in preparation for their upcoming deployment. Now this challenge may sound simple, but in regards to training management in air defense it is something that has never been done before.

"What we have done in 4-3 ADA is taken lessons learned from previous deployments to United States Central Command and exploited the knowledge from those within our Battalion that have served in that Area of Operations, and tailored the air defense field manual to better prepare our battalion for sustained air and missile defense operations in the incredibly short window we have to train," said Chief Warrant Officer 3, Matthew Keechi, air missile defense system technician.

Up until this point 4-3 ADA trained as every other air defense unit had, and they did not focus on training for sustained operations but focused more on initial operations. This way of training isn't due to a lack of deployment experience, as air defense forces are sought after and consistently deployed across the globe. The current certification requirements for air defense operations simply do not call for it.

"The current modified gunnery program executed by the Battalion is not only more relevant, but also provides Soldiers with an understanding of the operational requirements that they are expected to have during sustained operations," said 2nd Lt. Ian Otting, fire control platoon leader Alpha Battery, 4-3 ADA.

So how did they modify the process and tailor it to "train as they fight?" The process was simple, rather than defining a crew based on a system component of the Patriot Battery they modified the definition of a crew, which lead to a team of Soldiers that will be "on shift" at any given time while deployed in combat, manning a Patriot Site.

"Incorporating sustained operations into the existing gunnery standards provides Soldiers with a broader understanding of the requirements of a Patriot firing battery to sustain itself. This is especially apparent with maintenance operations. In order for a Patriot unit to maintain its operational capability it is imperative for the operators to integrate maintenance into every aspect of operations," said CPT Jessica Perales, commander, A Battery, 4-3 ADA.

Since Operation Desert Storm in 1990, air and missile defense forces have been on constant steady-state operations and deployments into the Central Command Area of Responsibility, with no clear indication that rotational deployments will slow down.

"This modified gunnery program more accurately reflects manpower requirements and exposes Soldiers to the battle rhythm they will execute downrange," said 1st Sgt. Charles Nelson, 1st Sgt., A Battery, 4-3 ADA

As Air Defense Leaders continue to shape their forces in to a more adaptable and lethal asset, Air Defense Soldiers are in need now more than ever with our allies across the globe.