By CourtesyJanuary 31, 2019
By First Lieutenant Alex Laval
In a uniquely realistic setting, Soldiers of Bravo Battery, 2-1 Air Defense Artillery Battalion, 35th ADA Brigade, conducted Air Battle Management training to the sound of fighter jets taking off at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, during the battalion's recent field training exercise, Operation: Spider-Verse. But Air Battle Management was only one of numerous goals that Bravo Battery set and accomplished to ensure Soldier and equipment proficiency.
From November 27 to December 7, 2018, 2-1 ADA BN conducted its winter FTX, dispatching subordinate units throughout the Korean Peninsula in an overnight convoy operation. Bravo Battery spent the weeks prior to the FTX preparing both the vehicles and Soldiers for movement to Osan Air Base to emplace the battery's equipment and initiate air defense operations. Convoy operations constitute the highest risk activity that units participate in on the Korean Peninsula, only mitigated by thorough preparation and vigilant execution. Sections throughout the battery logged countless hours ensuring that vehicles were fit for movement, from installing new parts to validating drivers' licenses. Their hard work ensured that all of Bravo Battery's equipment arrived to Osan Air Base safely.
"Mobility is the key to successful operations," said Staff Sgt. Hoscar Gonzalez, Launcher Platoon's platoon sergeant. "Without the ability to successfully execute movement, all other operations are unable to be performed."
The convoy itself gave Bravo's Soldiers needed experience on the road behind the wheel of large, tactical vehicles and validated that the vehicles were able to travel long distances without major mechanical issues.
The primary focus for Bravo Battery throughout the FTX was ensuring operational readiness in a simulated tactical environment, with battery leadership setting out realistic and achievable goals to maintain or improve proficiency across multiple domains. Central to that end was the training of battle-rostered crews in preparation for Air Defense Gunnery Table (ADGT) VIII certification. Crews on the Engagement Control Station (ECS), Battery Command Post (BCP), and Launching Stations trained to ADGT VIII standard, focusing on developing the skills of new crew members. Senior ECS and BCP crew members acted as trainers for newer soldiers, introducing them to the fundamentals of air battle management.
Additionally, Bravo Battery coordinated with 6-52 ADA Battalion to conduct netted air battles with their ICC, the only unit in the battalion to do so. Launcher crew members trained new soldiers in preparation for movement and emplacement drills as well as familiarization with launcher fault isolation and missile reload training.
When asked about the importance and method of the training conducted during the FTX, Warrant Officer 1 Travis Davis, Crew 1 Tactical Control Officer, stated that, "Utilizing a simulated tactical scenario during training exercises allows for realistic and accurate wartime environments. When maintaining a 'Fight Tonight' mindset it is essential that all Soldiers know their individual responsibilities during an increased operations tempo."
Situational adaptability, specifically in regard to introduction of unexpected system faults or ordinance was another highlight.
"If we know how to react in all scenarios, we ensure that we will not be caught off guard if a fight occurs," said Davis.
To meet the battalion goal of engaging Soldiers and leaders on all levels during the FTX, several scenario-based "injects" were introduced, simulating situations of perimeter breach of the site, soldiers killed in action, sexual harassment or assault, and interaction with outside media personnel. These "injects" tested Soldiers' abilities to quickly adapt and respond to complex or unfamiliar actions by foreign entities as well as internal issues that often affect unit readiness. Leaders were tested in their ability to create a response plan and conduct appropriate reporting procedures in a doctrinally correct and timely fashion.
Particularly challenging was the perimeter penetration scenario, wherein opposition forces probed the site defenses for weaknesses and exploited them to notionally damage equipment and attack personnel. Integral to defending against these attacks was a dedicated and engaged entry control point (ECP).
Pfc. Daniel Kent of Fire Control Platoon emphasized that, "Staying awake and vigilant is essential, even in the middle of the night, because at any point someone could try to enter your (tactical) site. If someone unauthorized attempts to enter, you have to implement escalation of force procedures to prevent that from happening."
Opposition forces engaged personnel from Bravo Battery, resulting in one notional casualty that allowed leadership to respond to that complex situation.
"Another key factor is maintaining accountability of site personnel at all times, especially in case of emergencies," Kent said. "But I also learned that with great power comes great responsibility, particularly when it comes to [the] ECP."
The introduction of these factors ensured that personnel in Bravo Battery on all levels were prepared to respond to situations, regardless of the environment.
In conjunction with ADGT training, Soldiers learned valuable Warrior Task Skills from subject matter experts regarding Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear environment procedures, site security, and battlefield medical treatment. Soldiers were briefed on the importance of CBRN preparedness, specifically the different levels of Mission Oriented Protective Posture equipment, chemical agent effects, buddy support for donning MOPP gear, and all clear procedures.
PV2 Eric Waino of Launcher Platoon, described the importance of CBRN training, stating that, "If there was an attack, you should know how to put your mask on in under 9 seconds. But you can also help others that are struggling so that they can stay in the fight as well."
Often overlooked is the importance of not only individual proficiency with CBRN equipment but also the knowledge necessary to assist others who may be struggling to minimize the number of personnel affected by chemical agents and ensure continued mission readiness. In addition to buddy assistance, Soldiers were trained on the proper method for determining if a chemically contaminated site is considered all clear. This training was essential to ensuring that all Soldiers possess the skills necessary to operate effectively before, during, and after the detection of a chemical threat and reduce the impact on air defense operations. Soldiers also conducted training in interacting with opposition forces as well as notional media personnel. These training opportunities put into practice the information that the Soldiers had been provided, testing their ability to control site security and avoid providing unauthorized individuals information about ongoing operations.
Through all phases of the exercise, from preparation to deployment, execution to recovery, Bravo Battery excelled. Operation: Spider-Verse afforded recently arrived personnel to get their first taste of the Korea experience, navigating the longest convoy of all units in the battalion to developing skills at Air Battle Management. Senior personnel, for some of whom this FTX would be their last as part of Bravo Battery, tested their ability to effectively impart the knowledge that they had gained over the course of their tour into the minds of more junior Soldiers. Bravo Battery's performance, through relentless dedication to preparation and training, ensured that all personnel who participated in the FTX emerged from it more knowledgeable and better prepared to "Fight Tonight" than they were before.