By Capt. William DuvallNovember 15, 2019
ANDERSON, S.C. - During a week of constant operations, the 263rd Army Air and Missile Defense Command (AAMDC) sent Command and Control (C2) elements, conducting 24-hour operations in several key regions throughout the United States and Canada. Senior and junior Soldiers under the command of the 263rd AAMDC were involved with the initial planning, moving to and returning from the sites, as well as playing the pivotal role of air defense support during Vigilant Shield 2020.
Leading up to Vigilant Shield 2020, in early October, the 263rd AAMDC conducted a rehearsal of concept (ROC) drill in Anderson, South Carolina allowing key leaders to brief the intent for Vigilant Shield 2020.
"The exercise is about the function of the theater-level air defense, providing the opportunity for a lot of great young Soldiers to get this level of experience," said U.S. Army Maj. Gen Timothy Sheriff, 263rd AAMDC commander, during the ROC drill. "It is about the performance and a base for training, a great opportunity to learn what others know, and to share what we know."
The 263rd AAMDC is steeped with a long history of real-world missions, the National Capital Region (NCR) for example, where senior enlisted Soldiers find time to shape and harness the junior enlisted.
"I have really enjoyed watching these young Soldiers come in here and hit the ground running. They have been working setting up the site and getting everything ready for the exercise," boasted U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Keith Phillips, 263rd AAMDC command sergeant major. "It makes me feel good to know that these young Soldiers are involved, learning, doing things correctly and one day will fill the seat where I am sitting today."
Several of the 263rd AAMDC junior Soldiers were immersing themselves in this theater-level exercise. For some, it was their first exercise in their military careers. Each junior enlisted service member had expectations, different levels of experience, and uncertainties leading up to Vigilant Shield 2020.
"I was an infantry rifleman, squad leader in the Marines and the biggest thing is learning a whole new set of acronyms, a whole new set of systems, and ways to go about things," shared U.S. Army Sgt. Andrew Greenfield. "My current position is very different from what I did in the Marine Corps. I just got finished briefing a two-star general on what we feel the situation currently is for this exercise, this was a highlight."
Greenfield got out of the Marines wanting to finish his Bachelor's Degree and pursue a civilian career. He was out nearly six months and realized he missed the camaraderie, the brotherhood, and discipline the military offers.
"They [the military] give you so many opportunities that you may never get on the civilian side, I missed that and I decided the National Guard would be a good fit for me. I can continue my school and continue my military service," added Greenfield.
During Vigilant Shield, the mental requirements and physical demands placed on the Soldiers required a balance of senior experience and junior enthusiasm. Sharing the 24-hour operations, the senior noncommissioned officers (NCO) were bringing experience to the fight, which is expected, and professionalism, which is required. These senior NCOs repeatedly remarked on the superiority of their junior enlisted.
"They [junior enlisted] did extremely well, the motivation was high, they were willing to jump into spots that a senior NCO would actually be working, and went above and beyond the job they were called to do," remarked U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Anderson, Vigilant Shield NCO battle captain. "Actually doing the exercise, versus training, they are actually seeing how it all happens. They learn how to put the pieces together and take that experience into the future, promoting themselves."
The South Carolina National Guard is diligent with its operation, working through adverse conditions and through demands brought about by ever-evolving situations, which required implementing 24-hours operations.
One of the junior enlisted service members working the night shift was U.S. Army Spc. Philip Frazier. Frazier transferred to the 263rd AAMDC after six years as a Military Police with the South Carolina National Guard and this was his first major exercise in air defense.
"I really did not know what to expect. I know there are a lot of moving pieces and parts, I learned a lot from my senior NCOs," commented Frazier. "I thought my mission was really just going to be operations, getting everything set up and working, but it changed throughout the mission. System integration is always an issue, what worked last time might not work this time, it is always a changing process."
Upon the end of the exercise, the unit built esprit de corps by holding a morale, welfare, and recreation event where many family members attended and several Soldiers were identified for their work for making the exercise a success, to include: U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Sarah Rees, U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Anderson, and U.S. Army Sgt. Andrew Greenfield.
"Warriors Prevail, Americas' Shield," the battle cry resounded throughout the armory.