FT. INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. - Two hundred New York Army National Guard aviation Soldiers of the 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade are honing their staff skills here in a high-stress, fast-paced command post exercise testing their ability to bring Army air power into the fight on a modern battlefield.
"Although the aircraft are not actually deployed, our staff is planning, coordinating and launching aircraft to support an array of air attacks, medevac, air lift, security and reconnaissance operations," explained Col. Jack James, the brigade commander.
The two-week long Warfighter exercise which kicked off on Nov. 6, uses computer simulations to test the ability of commanders and their staffs to fight a modern battle.
Responding to complex computer-simulated events as if they were in a real-world operation, commanders and staff engage enemy forces, and track movement of supplies and Soldiers on the battlefield.
According to James, the exercise tests all battle staff functions, from operations and intelligence to logistics, personnel, medical and communications.
"Being in this field environment and working together 24 hours a day in such close proximity has provided a unique opportunity for our Soldiers and staff to learn what each other do and refine our readiness to perform in the demanding environment of a modern battlefield," James said.
As Soldiers work through the various steps, coordination and decisions they make during numerous actions each day, they are observed by coach/trainers, experienced military personnel and civilians that evaluate their actions and provide guidance based on their own experience and Army's standards.
Many of the Soldiers here have deployment experience, but for younger Soldiers new to the unit, this is an entirely new experience.
"Our Soldiers are doing a phenomenal job, their enduring 12-15 hour shifts, working hard and learning a lot from each other," said Command Sgt. Major Joseph Marino.
According to Marino, the condensed timeline of the exercise is forcing Soldiers to react to a significant number of events and engagements each day.
"I'm impressed with our Soldiers ability to grasp and retain all the information they are processing each day," Marino added.
The 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade, a component of the Troy-based 42nd Infantry Division, provides command and control for Army Aviation units. The brigade is responsible for elements in 11 states.
Components of the 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade in New York include the 3rd Battalion, 142nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, based in Ronkonkoma and Latham, and the 642nd Aviation Support Battalion with elements in Ronkonkoma, Rochester, Dunkirk and Olean.