CAMP ATTERBURY, Indiana-Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, Ohio Army National Guard conducted a culminating training event near White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico from Oct. 1 through 16, 2018.

Facilitated by observer, coach/trainers with the 1st Battalion 362nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 157th Infantry Brigade, the overall focus throughout the event was mastering the Avenger Weapon System, a short-range missile platform.

During the two week training event, the 1-174th worked on several key skill sets to include weapon system emplacement, maneuvering and communicating with other elements on the battlefield, aerial target identification and engaging enemy aircraft.

"Our primary mission is to target, lock-on and engage and ultimately shoot down enemy aircraft," said Sgt. Zachary Lohr, an avenger crew team chief with Charlie Battery, 1-174th. "We protect infantry units on the ground from that aircraft so they can safely maneuver on the battlefield."

As with any military training event, challenges can and do arise which often present opportunities to improve unit readiness.

"One of our biggest issues is being short-handed," added Lohr. "So we've worked really hard on being able to efficiently operate the system and successfully engage targets. Also, some of our equipment is a little outdated which has caused some mechanical and electrical issues. However, when we have issues, we troubleshoot, correct the problem and then successfully engage our aerial target. Our Soldiers have been eager to learn and they're not satisfied until they achieve total success."

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Army's short-range capability has declined in prominence in favor of long-range systems. However, with an ever-changing battlefield, short-range platforms such as the Avenger Weapon System are experiencing a resurgence.

"This system allows for rapid acquisition of low flying aircraft, whereas other air defense assets will engage targets higher in the atmosphere," said 1st Lt. Mark Collier, a platoon leader with Charlie Battery, 1-174th. "The short-range capability allows us to engage targets they cannot and allows us to shoot on the move. We're able to maneuver with armored and infantry units closer to the front line and provide them an umbrella of protection from enemy aircraft."

The 1-174th has been bolstering their short-range air defense capabilities quite some time now in preparation to accomplish any mission they are given, one of which is guarding the nation's capital.

"Of all missions that the Army has, guarding our homeland, guarding our national capitol; there is no more important mission," said Capt. Samuel Horwitz, a senior observer, coach/trainer with the 1st Battalion, 362nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment. "First and foremost I'd like them to understand, and I think they do very well, is just how much is being asked of them."

"We've been working with this unit every month for about a year," added Horwitz. "They've been very receptive to our guidance and leadership. It has been more of a partnership than just a typical OC/T and training unit relationship.They have built a solid foundation here, but there is room to grow. There is always room to take it to the next level and the leaders here are absolutely able to do so."