By Sgt. Brandon BanzhafNovember 14, 2016
SOUTHWEST ASIA -- When the phone starts to ring, there is no telling what the purpose behind the call may be.
It must be answered. It could a message that contains a fire order, status report or even an order to relocate and it must be communicated with precision. Each situation calls for a different action with predetermined procedures.
"If the order comes down the chain to move, the air defense artillery fire control officers relay the order to the respective unit," said Capt. Jason Knight, an Abilene, Texas native and ADAFCO for the 69th Air Defense Artillery "Top Notch" Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas.
"The air and missile defense exercise and the crew drills are separate, but they're not. Without one you can't have the other."
Soldiers with Battery B, 1st Battalion, 43rd ADA Regiment, 69th ADA Brigade conducted a march order and emplacement drill Oct. 14 in the U.S. Army Central's area of responsibility during the AMDEX.
The AMDEX is designed to simulate war and uses likely scenarios to test the unit's missile intercepting abilities, assess logistical channels and evaluates the reporting procedures.
During the virtual exercise, a decision could be made to move a unit to a different location on the battlefield. The command is given, the order is transmitted and the pieces on the chess board move.
But outside of the virtual world, the Soldiers on the ground are ready to make that move.
"The hands-on drills are literally why I signed up to do this job," said Spc. Nyhkwquan McCauley, a Harrisonburg, Virginia, native and Patriot launching station enhanced operator and maintainer with the battery. "That part of it really gives me a rush; I love it."
McCauley and his fellow crewmember, Spc. Jordan Thomas, a Louisville, Kentucky, native, have the most important roles of the drill.
"That's where we take the launcher, pack it all up and basically move it out with the convoy to go to whatever location that is briefed in the mission," said McCauley. "Then we emplace it there and get the missiles ready to fire."
As McCauley and Thomas handled the launcher, their fellow Soldiers pulled 360-degree security to protect them from any threats.
If there was an attack, they would be able to take care of that while we continue on with the mission, said McCauley.
McCauley and Thomas systematically went from one step to the next. One would announce what he was doing as the other echoed it back. Every step of the way, both Soldiers knew what the other was doing.
"It's more of a confirmation type of thing and it makes the drill go smoothly," McCauley said. "The importance of the commands is to let him know if he is allowed to go forward with whatever next step he is supposed to do."
Every step is calculated. Every pin has to be in its place and every bolt has to be torqued. All of the panels are latched shut and cables properly connected.
"These drills are important so we can set up in locations where we can protect our assets, like we are right now," said Thomas. "It feels awesome knowing that we can do our jobs. We know what we are supposed to do and we have the capabilities to do it."
After packing up, the pair climbs into their truck and secures their position in the line of vehicles.
"The second part was actually moving the launcher to where ever we were told to go," said Thomas. "The third part is the emplacement. What we had to do then was to disconnect the truck, set up the launcher and power up the generator to get everything ready."
"My favorite command is 'missile heat time starts now'," said McCauley. "That's when I know the missiles are getting ready to heat up and fly."
Both had to be evaluated and certified prior to deploying on many drills. Smaller exercises such as the operational readiness exercises and crew evaluations are performed in theater to keep the Soldiers ready and qualified.
The more the crews know each other, the faster they can perform their drills and achieve a higher score on their evaluations.
"I really like being out here with the group of guys that we have," said McCauley. "We are really close, so everything goes smoothly because we know how to work with each other and the communication is great."
This article is the first part of a two piece series on the air and missile defense exercise. The first story of the series highlights the importance of training and maintaining proficiency in crew led drills as units fight simulated air battles. The decisions made in the exercise are similar to the ones units will make in their operations affecting the Soldiers and relying on the crews to be trained and ready for any order they get.