By Michael StrasserMarch 29, 2018
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (March 29, 2018) -- Col. Clair A. Gill, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade commander, met with community members in Gouverneur and Lowville on March 28 to discuss Falcon's Peak, a readiness-building exercise scheduled April 9-18.
Gill said that in his two years commanding 10th CAB, the unit has been together in its entirety at Fort Drum for only about five weeks. The rest of the time, subordinate battalions have been deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Korea. Most of the brigade returned last November after spending nearly a year in Eastern Europe training with NATO allies.
A lot of their training is in support of ground forces, but Gill said that Falcon's Peak will be an aviation-focused exercise to simulate a "near-peer" threat within difficult terrain. The military defines "near-peer" as an adversary with similar weapons and capabilities. Gill said that this training is necessary to prepare aviators for future conflicts anywhere in the world with the highest level of readiness.
"Falcon's Peak is an exercise that is really going to test our ability to do our jobs," he said. "We have an obligation to be ready ... because going into combat unprepared is an absolute, abject failure. We prepare for that through arduous, realistic, tough training, and that's how we came up with Falcon's Peak."
Gill explained how the 10th Mountain Division's aviation brigade will deploy to areas in eastern New York and Vermont, then "fight" their way back to Fort Drum. The training will impact local communities at times with increased ground and air traffic, starting with the initial vehicle convoys on April 9 with routes through Gouverneur and Tupper Lake.
Community members in Gouverneur, Degrasse, Saranac Lake and Cranberry Lake areas, in addition to Carthage and Lowville, will likely hear and see additional helicopter traffic during the exercise and should be advised that at times some of the aircraft could be flying at very low altitudes and at night.
Gill said that Fort Drum has great training areas but it is limited to how far aviators can push themselves within the more than 100,000 acres of airspace.
"In an aviation unit, we can fly that in about 15 minutes," he said. "What we really need to do is replicate stretching our own capabilities -- our communications, our logistical resupplies - and that can only be done over extended distances."
Gill said that testing their reconnaissance and security capabilities requires Apache pilots to fly low and use their radar to find enemy threats while communicating with unmanned aerial systems. He said that aviators deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan had gotten used to flying higher altitudes to avoid small-arms fire that threatened aircrafts.
"The problem is, the threats that we face in future are going to be more complex, and they are going to be much more capable," he said. "So we need to get back to training that way. Lower altitudes is a more demanding mode of flight for us, and so we need to train our crews to be proficient and aware of what flying at those altitudes looks like."
Some attendees told Gill that they have gotten used to the occasional disturbance caused by training exercises. He said that being transparent about this now might help alleviate people's concerns during the exercise.
Gill said that they will share additional details about the exercise at https://www.facebook.com/10thCAB/.
"I would tell anyone who has a concern about Falcon's Peak to go to the 10th CAB's page, and there will be plenty of information," Gill said.