Georgia Army National Guard Soldiers of the Elberton-based Headquarters, 1st Battalion, 214th Artillery Regiment deployed to Fort Riley, Kan., to participate in the Kansas Army National Guard's Big Bow exercise, June 1 to 16, 2019 for annual training.

The exercise brought together three separate field artillery battalions from the National Guards of Kansas, Missouri and Georgia. The units combined under the Kansas National Guard's 130th Field Artillery Brigade to train on the full spectrum of a brigade fires team.

"This had a huge impact on the 1-214th," said Lt. Col. Nathan Knight, commander, 1-214th Field Artillery. "Working under the 130th really pushed the battalion staff and our Soldiers in a positive way."

The unit conducts live-fire training typically at Georgia's Fort Gordon or Fort Stewart from pre-established, known firing positions. For this training exercise, the 130th assigned the battalion various training areas approximately nine square miles in size. The battalion had to conduct reconnaissance, emplace the weapon systems and develop firing data from scratch.

The unit conducted numerous fire missions and operated in six such training areas over two weeks. Given the size of the Fort Riley training area, the battalion stayed on the move throughout the exercise.

"Training here at Fort Riley really increased the readiness of the battalion," said Knight. "We had a huge amount of space (in which) to operate; it pushed us to go out and locate good terrain to conduct operations."

Upon arrival at Fort Riley, the unit plunged immediately into the exercise. Following an 18-hour bus ride, the Soldiers drew equipment, conducted their final checks and headed to the vast plains of the training area.

"This was the first long term field problem for a majority of our younger Soldiers," said Knight. "They had to think about the details of staying in the field for an extended amount of time."

Unit members were impressed with the training. After the exercise, many are considering remaining in the organization.

"We have four Soldiers who are inside the re-enlistment window and were not going to reenlist," said Knight. "After this exercise, with all the travel, field time, weather conditions and firing, all are seriously considering their options to stay in the Guard."

The Big Bow exercise is the first time the separate units of the 130th Field Artillery Brigade came together and trained as a team. The 1-214th has not trained with a brigade headquarters since 2003.

"This exercise is the first time we have trained as part of a fires brigade in a long time," said Knight. "From battalion operations to the individual cannon crew member, this has provided the best training we've had for a long time."