FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Echo Battery, 3rd Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery deployed Thursday from Green Ramp to Baghdad in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Echo Battery, the only airborne ADA battery in the Army, first received an alert in January 2008 that the battery would be deploying in March 2009. Capt. Michael A. Kramer and 1st Sgt. Gary E. Plotnick took the reins and started to train for their mission specific tasks.
The mission required the battery to be divided into three sections, conducting three separate tasks. The first mission was for two security force platoons to provide convoy security and be ready and able to receive an air defense artillery protection and engagement mission in or around Baghdad. The second mission requires one platoon to conduct high value detainee operations on Camp Liberty, Iraq. The third part of these missions is headquarters platoon's tasking to be the operation center for the deployment.
The leadership of the Echo "Executioner" Battery quickly began preparing their Soldiers to go downrange for a nonstandard air defense artillery mission.
To prepare Echo Battery for deployment the Soldiers within the formation were reassigned into a directed mission essential task formation. This consists of two, 13-man security force platoons and one, 45-man detainee holding area platoon.
The DHA platoon has two sergeants who conducted this mission with the 3rd Battalion, 4th ADA in 2006. Sgt. Eric M. Reaves and Sgt. John Osuna have been able to provide good training and essential information that helped prepare their Soldiers for what is to come. Knowing the size of the facility and the number of detainees that it will hold, as well as the average male to female prisoner ratio, will prove to be invaluable once the platoon gets on the ground.
The facility that they will be guarding is a short term interrogation facility where they will separate the detainees by religion as well as by sex. The DHA platoon has prepared to handle males as well as female prisoners by bringing two females, Cpl. Tatiana Coker and Pvt. Ashley Bost to ensure that the prisoners' right under the Geneva Convention to be guarded by the same sex is in no way violated while the prisoners are in the DHA platoons care.
Sgt. 1st Class Wesley T. Neel, the DHA platoon sergeant feels that the insight of Soldiers who have gone on this mission before, combined with the hands on training the platoon received with Task Force Outlaw at Ft. Bliss, Texas are what they need to be ready and able to successfully fill their role at the Camp Liberty facility.
The training for Echo Battery began with a three day field training exercise in Northern Training Area 8 in October 2008 to validate each Soldier and the squad elements on the warrior tasks and battle drills. Also, 14 drivers attended the mine resistant, ambush protected vehicle course and the entire battery went through the humvee egress assistance trainer to simulate possible vehicle evacuation scenarios.
In addition, Echo Battery executed three convoy live fire exercises focusing on squad tactics and reacting to and watching for, improvised explosive devices. Echo Battery then travelled to McGregor Range at Fort Bliss, where the two SECFOR platoons conducted live fire exercises and the DHA platoon conducted two weeks of detainee handling training. The Executioners culminated their training in Fort Bliss with a range density week that included firing 18 stinger missiles as six, three-man teams , convoy life fire exercise, an M-4 carbine assault rifle range, an M-9 automatic pistol range and a .50 caliber M-2 Browning machine gun range.
The final training event was at Fort Bragg, when Echo Battery sent their security platoons out to the .50 caliber vehicle mounted range to train on the type of weapon they will use in Iraq. Sgt. 1st Class Matthew C. Sarver, platoon sergeant for the battery's 1st SECFOR platoon wants his Soldiers to be able to, "anticipate the inevitable". To make the training even more realistic, he added a dud round to each belt of ammunition so that the crews would have to react to a misfire and be able to adapt and carry on the mission. "Being able to correct malfunctions is the key to success when firing downrange."
Staff Sgt. Errick T. Gordon and Sgt. Bradley J. Jette said they were glad that the exercise consisted of crew tactics, with three-man teams so that each individual had a chance to train on the weapon. They felt as if the new Soldiers who are deploying for the first time "will be able to go down range confident in their crew and their assigned weapon because of the training that they received that day."
Spc. John J. Washington, Spc. Eddie R. Smith and Pvt. Leroy W. Hair were excited that they were being afforded the opportunity to fire the .50 caliber for the first time since advanced individual training.
The overall mentality of the Soldiers of Echo Battery, 3-4 ADA is that they are glad to have had the different opportunities to train, they said they cannot wait to apply downrange all of the lessons learned during training and feel fully ready and able to successfully complete the mission while raising the standards in Baghdad.