FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Aug. 25, 2021) -- Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 18th Field Artillery spent Aug. 23, at the Fort Sill rail head loading the battalion’s fleet of vehicles onto DoD rail cars.
It was just one of the many steps the battalion performed as part of an Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise (EDRE), where it had 10 days from receiving notice to get its Soldiers and equipment to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. Once in the California desert they will provide artillery support for a massive exercise.
“The EDRE tests our ability to respond to a rapid deployment notification,” said Maj. Matthew Wolverton, 75th Field Artillery Brigade Information Operations officer. With short notice, the battalion had to prepare its 300 Soldiers and equipment as if they were deploying.
The EDRE sequence also included processing Soldiers administratively and medically, doing preventive maintenance on vehicles, conducting a town hall meeting for families about the training, and ensuring Soldiers’ M4 carbine rifles were calibrated for accuracy.
The 2-18th FA “Mission Ready” battalion performs the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) as part of the 75th FA Brigade here. The exercise was planned months ago by Forces Command headquarters and was not in response to any current real-world situation, the major said.
Lt. Col. Frank Maxwell, 2-18th FA commander, was at the rail load overseeing operations, and said it was only the second time in his 19-year career that he’s been involved in an EDRE.
“The emergency deployment is a fairly complex event, but the brigade and Fort Sill have programed out the key events in sequence, so the battalion can execute that,’’ Maxwell said. “It’s a lot of moving pieces going in different directions simultaneously, so it’s a very busy 10 days.”
He said it’s a chance for his younger Soldiers to learn how to outload from their home base and participate in a large-scale combat exercise. “This (EDRE) is one of the best training opportunities the Army can provide.”
It was the first EDRE for Pfc. Bailey Canada, 2-18th FA MLRS driver, who said he was learning a lot from it.
“I am gaining a lot of knowledge about my position and the other positions in the (MLRS) launcher, and learning what the Army is like in a battle scenario,” Canada said.
There have been some early mornings and late evenings, but the Soldiers followed a brigade daily checklist of what to do, so there really weren’t many surprises, Canada said. “It’s going good.”
Maxwell led a town hall meeting Aug. 19, for families of the 2-18th FA. It was conducted in the post theater and also livestreamed.
The commander provided an overview of the exercise with timelines, and addressed any concerns. And, several representatives from Army Community Services spoke about programs that are available to families.
About 35 Soldiers from the 100th Brigade Support Battalion were at the 25-meter 1B Range Aug. 21, as they assisted Soldiers from 2-18th FA in zeroing their M4 carbines.
The support Soldiers included ammo personnel, range safeties, marksmanship instructors, and tower personnel, said Lt. Col. Matthew Meyer, 100th BSB commander. He said about 300 Soldiers would go through the range over two days.
“I want them to have confidence in their weapon system,” Meyer said. “If they have to engage their weapon, they will have faith in what they point at they are going to hit.”
Meyer added that his Soldiers were also assisting the rail load operations, as well as conducting a driver’s training academy to ensure “Mission Ready” Soldiers were qualified to drive equipment.
Col. Dave Norris, 75th FA Brigade commander, said his battalions deploy regularly to the Middle East and Korea.
“Practicing these short-notice deployments is absolutely critical as a core competency for our brigade,” Norris said. “We are treating this (EDRE) no differently than as if we were going overseas.”
Maxwell said his battalion will be at Fort Irwin about a month, and expects to return to Fort Sill in the fall.