It was a calm afternoon at the Hohenfels Training Area, Germany during Allied Spirit VIII, until Sgt. Joshua Higinbotham noticed some animals scurrying out of an adjacent tree line.
"I zoomed in and noticed that there was a rotor helicopter," said Higinbotham, a gunner for a Mobile Gun System, 5th Platoon, Quickstrike Troop, 4th Squadron, 2d Cavalry Regiment.
After positively identifying the helicopter as belonging to the simulated enemy, Higinbotham engaged the target, resulting in a kill from 2,300 meters away.
"The helicopter kill impressed all of the [observers and controllers] because they had never seen a [Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System] kill on a helicopter," explained 1st Lt. Scott Petersen, Platoon Leader for 5th PLT, Quickstrike TRP, 4/2CR.
For this and many other tactical successes, 5th PLT was presented with the "Hero of Hohenfels" award, which was awarded to the most lethal platoon at Allied Spirit VIII, a training exercise involving approximately 4,100 participants from 10 nations, Jan. 15 - Feb. 5, 2018. In addition to defeating over 50 simulated enemy vehicles and personnel, the platoon achieved the longest shot in the rotation by defeating an Opposing Forces' vehicle from 3,200 meters away.
Higinbotham attributed the platoon's success to their preparation.
"There is a lot of work that goes into preparing for it, especially with the MILES gear," said Higinbotham.
With new MILES gear for the MGS vehicles, the platoon spent long hours at work ensuring that the equipment was working properly. This extra work allowed the platoon to defeat the simulated enemy whenever necessary throughout the training exercise.
Training also played a significant part in 5th PLT's success. From training at the NATO-led Battle Group in Poland supporting the enhanced Forward Presence initiative to last year's Saber Junction 17 at the HTA, Petersen explained how his platoon went through an entire training progression.
"The end state was Hohenfels, Allied Spirit VIII," said Petersen.
The award meant a lot to the members of the platoon. For Higinbotham, he intends to retain lessons learned from the experience and "...pass the knowledge along to other people."
"It meant a lot because it was [represented] everything my platoon worked for," said Peterson.
5th PLT will recertify their crews and participate in a Squadron Validation Exercise as they prepare to join 2CR for Saber Strike 18 this summer.