FORT CHAFFEE, Ark. - Soldiers of the Oklahoma Army National Guard's (OKARNG) 45th Field Artillery Brigade (FAB), with support from 90th Troop Command, worked through the muddy terrain and heavy rain of Fort Chaffee for exercise Western Strike, an annual training exercise, June 6-14 as part of the OKARNG's annual training.Western Strike helps prepare the FAB to assemble and deploy into a theater of operations and accomplish all fire support tasks that a maneuver division would ask for from a FAB. To ensure mission success, exportable combat training capability, serving as the Western Strike opposition force, it provides a training opportunity near their unit's home station, similar to what Soldiers experience at the National Training Center.
"Our training year has been built around this exercise," said Col. Scott Holt, commander of the 45th FAB. "In the lead up to this, during their field training exercises, the batteries have made sure to cover all of the tasks and requirements that will be executed during Western Strike."The exercise presented numerous challenges for the FAB, such as operating logistics on a larger scale in a new environment and maneuvering unpredictable weather conditions.
The Oklahoma Army National Guard's mission at Western Strike is to train in a capacity that is not available in Oklahoma. Holt added that the FAB is incorporating all the force multipliers for this mission that are not organic to the FAB, including the OKARNG's 90th Troop Command, serving as a logistics hub to ensure the FAB is supplied with everything they need."The logistic part of this is huge," Holt said. "We will have to plan and execute the logistics to keep those people in the field and execute the mission of the [Field Artillery Briagde]."Command Sgt. Maj. Robby Brite, brigade command sergeant major for the 45th FAB, said that their mission is to get down to platoon-level activities and troop leading procedures, so platoon leaders and platoon sergeants are able to understand the movement and control of their elements."We came to Fort Chaffee for a reason," Brite said. "As a [Field Artillery Brigade], we're accustomed to going to Fort Sill [Oklahoma] and training. Being here, we are challenging each and every one of our Soldiers and taking them out of their norm to show them exactly what they're capable of. The 45th [Field Artillery Brigade] Soldiers are ready for anything that is handed to them."High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) crewmembers with 1st Battalion, 158th Field Artillery Regiment, 45th FAB, executed live fire missions and other readiness drills during Western Strike. Every launch the HIMARS crews were able to accomplish was due to the efforts of the Alpha Forward Support Company (FSC), 120th Engineer Battalion."This is a whole different environment than we are used to training in compared to Fort Sill," said 1st Lt. Christopher Meyer, executive officer with the FSC. "Coming to Fort Chaffee, we are not used to it, there is a whole different set of variables."
Normally an FSC would support only a battalion, from the cooks that make sure every Soldier is fed to the distribution of ammunition to Soldiers in the field. However, here at Western Strike, they are faced with supporting an entire brigade.
"We have transported supplies for training and hauled equipment with a higher threat level than usual," Meyer said. "Running supplies containing everything from fuel to ammunition, food and maintenance parts."In conjunction with the FSC, medics from the 120th Medical Company (Area Support) and engineers from the 3120th Engineer Company, both from 120th Engineer Battalion, 90th Troop Command, provided support to the FAB during the exercise."I would encourage anybody to do an exercise like Western Strike on this level," Meyer said. "We have never had any training at this scale with this many elements and getting to see what they do and what the actual support looks like coming all the way up from a division level through the battalion."Holt added that he was impressed by the more than 800 Soldiers supporting the mission at Fort Chaffee during Western Strike."I am super proud to be their commander," Holt said. "The effort here has been outstanding. They always come through. 'Red Thunder' Soldiers always lead the way."