Schofield Barracks, Hawaii -- It's 2 a.m. Your phone rings. Are you ready to go?
Soldiers with 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, answered with a resounding “yes”, as they executed a short-notice, interisland deployment readiness exercise alongside Marine Corps aviation on October 13, from here to Barking Sands Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii.
The Tropic Lightning Soldiers, aligned with 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, were notified in the early morning hours to get ready to deploy. Ace Troop is currently charged with a responsibility to rapidly deploy to anywhere in the Indo-Pacific area of responsibility.
“We're the first ones to get the call and go,” said Sergeant First Class William Holdcroft, acting First Sergeant for Ace Troop, 2-14 CAV. “This particular [deployment readiness exercise] was on a condensed timeline. We only had around eight to 10 to get ready to go.”
Once arriving at their troop headquarters, Soldiers were briefed they were deploying as part of a humanitarian assistance effort. A notional natural disaster had hit an island, and their job was to secure an airfield, evacuate American citizens, and establish security so supplies and a follow-on force could land at the island.
“They had no idea that they were going to actually deploy,” said Cpt. Sean Parrott, assistant operations officer with 2-14 CAV. “They had to come in on two hours’ notice, draw all of their weapons, and get their equipment packed and ready.”
Every single Soldier in Ace Troop responded within 30 minutes of notification, Holdcroft said. After receiving the order, about 45 Soldiers were selected from across the troop based on mission requirements to take part in the exercise.
“Our platoons did a really excellent job of making sure everything was prepped and staged beforehand because we knew a call could come at any time,” Holdcroft said. “Getting gear ready and getting Soldiers ready wasn't an issue."
An additional and unique challenge during the exercise was coordinating with joint partners, Parrott said. A lot of moving pieces and constant coordination helped the two services learn from each other and build a better joint working relationship.
Marine aviation units of the Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 and Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 took part in the exercise, flying Soldiers between Oahu and Kauai on CH-53E Super Stallion support helicopters and V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft. Army aviation from 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment rounded out the air power, transporting Soldiers on UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters.
In order to strengthen their rapid-deployment capability, 2-14 CAV tailored their training to align with the unique mission requirement. They put it all into play during the exercise, using what they learned to execute the mission successfully.
“At the squadron level, our ability to rapidly alert, marshal, and deploy anywhere worldwide is a mission essential task for us,” Parrott said. “This was a great opportunity to get out there and get after some of those METs that we normally aren't able to train.”
The deployment readiness exercise was a great chance to challenge troop and platoon level leadership and stress the systems and processes between the troop and squadron levels, Holdcroft said.
“Communication was a challenge. Making sure our Soldiers were good to go and we had all our ducks in a row was a challenge. Taking what squadron was feeding us and extrapolating what we needed to do was a challenge,” Holdcroft said. “That was really the point of the whole thing. It really targeted everything we'd have to be dealing with in a real scenario.”
Deployment readiness exercises build total unit readiness, giving Soldiers another repetition to prepare if they have to answer the nation's call for a real deployment.
“We have to be able to practice deploying,” Holdcroft said. “If we don't, we're always going to be playing defense, always on the back foot, and nobody wants to be playing that way. We always need to practice deploying and need to get used to playing an 'away game.'”
One of the Army's priorities in the Indo-Pacific region is maintaining a force that is ready to respond at short notice to any contingency. Exercises like this give Soldiers the reps needed for a real situation and demonstrate capability, Parrott said.
“If you look at what we did here, projecting combat power west toward the international dateline, deploying to another island; that's proof we are ready and able to respond on short notice to any contingency that might arise, and we're able to work with our joint partners to do that,” Parrott said.