HOHENFELS, Germany -- For the first time in nearly 15 years, 7th Army Training Command's Joint Multinational Readiness Center will soon begin observing, coaching and training Soldiers using the FIM-92 Stinger Man-Portable, Air Defense Missile System during future exercises. In preparation for this, approximately 50 Observer Coach/Trainers, known as OC/Ts, attended their own training on the Stinger system at the Hohenfels Training Area, Jan. 10.
"Based on the Chief of Staff of the Army's initiative, getting Europe stood up with short-range air defense (SHORAD) Stinger teams is his first priority inside the initiative of getting Stinger teams back online," said Lt. Col. Aaron Felter, the director of training and doctrine for the Air Defense Integrated Office. "We're going to go to the National Training Center and the Joint Readiness Training Center, however, the immediate focus is Europe and getting Europe ready to fight tonight and defend Europe against any adversary."
Instructors from the Fires Center of Excellence in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, traveled to Germany on a whirlwind excursion to offer their expertise with the Stinger system. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Stephen Ford and Sgt. 1st Class Edward Goldman, both instructors with the 30th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, joined Felter to provide hands-on instructions for the system that is now being reintroduced to brigade combat teams across the U.S. Army.
JMRC was the first combat training center to receive this Stinger training for OC/Ts.
In the past 15 years, the Army slowly drifted away from the FIM-92 Stinger -- which is an infrared homing surface-to-air missile that has been around since the late 1970's -- as it focused on counterinsurgency tactics. However, now it is one of the Army's main focal points, Felter said.
"Bringing back the Stinger addresses a self-identified gap that the Army created and has recognized," added Felter. "We're getting back to the basics and providing short range air defense to maneuver units."
One of three air defense officers at JMRC, Capt. Richard Tran, who is the Headquarters and Headquarters Company OC/T for the Warhog Team, is prepared to share his knowledge with the rest of the OC/T teams at JMRC who could not attend the training.
"I have a much better picture of how to go about observing, coaching and training Soldiers," said Tran. "I'm better equipped after this class. Initially some of these Stinger teams who rotate through JMRC won't be completely up to speed with the Stingers. They're riflemen who cross-trained to operate the system, and it will be our job to help guide them along this learning process."
Though the Avenger and other variants may be seen and used from time to time, JMRC will primarily observe, coach and train the individual two-man Stinger teams using the shoulder fired configuration.
While in the field at JMRC, the Stinger teams will be evaluated on the mission-essential tasks of site placement, determining air avenues of approach, defending a critical location, de-conflicting engagements of enemy aircraft based on sector of fire, and proper operation of the FIM-92 Stinger.
"In parallel efforts, the goal is to get 62 Stinger teams into the operational force as soon as possible," added Felter. "In concert with that, additional SHORAD battalions are being stood up, which will result in aligning one SHORAD battalion with each division."
Some of the Soldiers who have received this training include personnel from 173rd Airborne Brigade and 2nd Cavalry Regiment who recently took a five-week Stinger course with the 7th Army Training Command at Grafenwoehr, Germany. Soon, many of those same Soldiers and others will be observed, coached and trained during their participation in future exercises at JMRC.