CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - In the chill, pre-dawn hours, Kansas National Guard troops of Alpha Battery, 2nd Battalion, 130th Field Artillery, 75th Field Artillery Brigade, 35th Infantry Division worked tirelessly alongside a team of U.S. Airmen to load two M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and one HMMWV aboard a C-17 aircraft, en-route to the United Arab Emirates, Jan. 21. for Operation Diamond Torrent.
The team of Soldiers and Airmen worked seamlessly to secure more than 54,000 pounds of payload in less than 30 minutes, as they began the first leg of Operation Diamond Torrent.
"The Air Force has worked with us hand-in-hand throughout this entire exercise to get it planned and resourced and everything," said Capt. Michael Sprigg, Alpha Battery commander.
The HIMARS Rapid Infiltration (HI-RAIN) exercise, an element of Operation Diamond Torrent, demonstrates the capabilities of the C-17 and the HIMARS as an operational strategic strike package that can rapidly deploy and infiltrate to deliver a fast, flexible and lethal combination wherever needed.
"The 'HI-RAIN' exercise allows us to put a HIMARS up on a C-17 or C-130, and fly into an area, giving us an extended range for what the rockets already have," said Sprigg. "We can fly in, shoot the mission, and fly back out before they even know we were there."
Operation Diamond Torrent demonstrated multi-level interoperability, as the U.S. Army and Air Force worked together as a team in conjunction with Soldiers from Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
"This exercise improved interoperability by allowing us to work together and build relationships through shared hardship and shared systems," said Maj. Steven Redmon, brigade fire support officer, 75th Field Artillery Brigade, U.S. Army. "Together we can accomplish a lot more. Going face-to-face and talking with our joint partners and our combined partners we can solve a lot of problems together."
The exercise provided an opportunity for 'HI-RAIN' capabilities to prove successful as a viable rapid response solution among partner nations and joint forces.
"We've been planning this for about a month and a half," said Sprigg. "This is the first time we have ever done this. We've talked about it and trained on it, but we've never had the actual resources to complete the mission. The most gratifying thing was that we were able to come to the UAE and complete our mission within our time frame and return to Kuwait on time."
The unit's 1st Sgt. appreciated the experience of broadening shared operational perspectives and opportunities.
"Some of the best things we can take away from this are working with the Air Force, coming to the UAE and working with the Emiratis and working with the Kuwaitis," said 1st Sgt. Gerald Gibson, A Battery, 2-130th. "It provides a total security package and allows everyone to see our joint capabilities. Hopefully it gives our partner nations a good feeling knowing that we're here and able to do what is necessary."
Aside from its inherent interoperability characteristics, the exercise demonstrated that multiple HIMARS could be loaded, transported, unloaded, and put to use within a specified timeframe.
"I know all of my crew has gotten a lot out of this," said Gibson. "You couldn't ask for a better training scenario. As National Guard Soldiers, we don't get opportunities like this to work with the Air Force and do these kinds of things. This is pretty much a once in a career training opportunity."
The 35th Inf. Div.'s A Battery encompasses many sections that have come together over the past 9 months to tackle a number of notable achievements. The unit previously demonstrated its capabilities during Exercise Angel Strike last October by becoming the first Kansas National Guard unit since WWII to shoot actual fire missions in a forward-deployed environment.
"The Operation Diamond Torrent HI-RAIN exercise was a great display of a culmination of training and operations for a battery to execute well within a brigade commander's intent," said Redmon.
Alpha Battery, 2-130th is located in rural Holton, Kansas, 35 miles north of Topeka. Most of the battery's 119 soldiers live in areas that span the state of Kansas with some in Missouri.