MIHAIL KOGALNICEANU AIR BASE, Romania - US Army Soldiers from Company C, 2nd Battalion 263rd Air Defense Artillery, 263rd Army Air & Missile Defense Command, demonstrated their air defense live fire capabilities at Capu Midia Training Area, Romania on July 19, 2017.
The exercise saw the integration of air defense strategies between the United States and some of its NATO Allies, predominantly Romania. Although this is not the first time the two Allies have worked together to perfect their synergy, this did mark the first time the South Carolina National Guard unit has worked alongside this ally.
Pfc. Joshua Harrison, a crew member of 1st platoon, Company C, 2-263rd ADA, explained how his unit prepared for the mission.
"As far as training here, we've been pulling air security for another unit in the area as well as the Romanian units out here," he said.
The unit is one of the major participants in this year's Tobruq Legacy, an air defense exercise in which the US works with NATO Allies and partners to enhance air defense proficiency as well as to share new knowledge and techniques.
The exercise consisted of the participating countries hunting remote control drones over the Black Sea. The US used an AN/TWQ-1 Avenger air defense system, while the Romanians fired many air defense systems, primarily the MIM-23 Hawk missile system. Each one hit its mark multiple times.
Sgt. Jessie Cortez, a team chief with Company C, 2-263rd ADA, described his thoughts before the live fire on how events would hopefully turn out.
"It's going to be interesting to see how this exercise goes because we've never worked alongside this many countries before," he said.
The day was a win for the soldiers of the 2-263rd ADA. For many it was the first time firing live missiles, as well as working seamlessly with Allied air defense units.
The unit's performance was also observed by Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of US Army Europe. Harrison expressed the feelings of many of his teammates on the day's events.
"I feel like a real asset to the unit, being able to fire one of the first missiles over here with our Allies," he said.
Tobruq Legacy runs concurrent with Saber Guardian, a US European Command, US Army Europe-led exercise that builds readiness and enhances a unified command in the Black Sea region.