By Capt. Marvin J. Baker, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West, Public AffairsJuly 17, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Before the Missouri Army National Guard's 35th Combat Aviation Brigade deploys to Kuwait this month, they will complete a 10-day final training program coordinated by Division West's 166th Aviation Brigade at the aviation simulation center here.
The aviation training exercise tests all Soldiers in the unit as they use the center's simulation systems to replicate situations the unit will encounter during their nine-month deployment.
"The ATX is a multi-echelon training program that allows crews, commanders and their staff to all train together using the latest Army technology. The simulation center is set up to facilitate work in tactical operations centers, staff offices and classrooms," said Maj. Mike Stachour, exercise branch chief for Fort Rucker's Directorate of Simulation.
The heart of the action is the tactical operation center, where nearly a dozen Soldiers spend their day tracking everything the units does and writing reports so the brigade commander has the most up-to-date information possible.
"The brigade commander needs us to be thorough, accurate, and fast as we check and double-check while updating him on information that affects his ability to complete the mission," said Capt. David Nelson, 35th Combat Aviation Brigade battle captain. "During this training, I can see how things can pile up if we aren't efficient, and that's why I rely on my team to be diligent in their job."
One of the team members Nelson relies on is Spc. Noelle Foster, an aviation operations specialist and the brigade's youngest Soldier. "I'm 20 years old and this is my first full-time job," Foster said. "I feel prepared for my deployment."
Foster said she spent the bulk of the past two years training for her deployment, starting with her 15-week military occupational skill training in 2010 at Fort Rucker. Since then, she completed a year's worth of monthly battle assemblies and other collective training events near her unit's headquarters in Sedalia, Mo.
Sgt. John Zapata has nearly 12 years of service in the Army, but he is new to the 35th Combat Aviation Brigade operations mission. "I used to be a medic, and I worked in the personnel section before," Zapata said. "This new job makes me a more well-rounded Soldier."
The entire aviation training exercise is overseen by observer controller/trainers in Division West's 166th Aviation Brigade, along with other subject matter experts who returned from overseas deployments to share their fresh and relevant skills and knowledge.
"When the 35th CAB deploys, they will be responsible for all Army aviation assets in Kuwait," said Capt. Jared Maxwell, a trainer with the 166th Aviation Brigade. "Our goal here is to mimic actions they might see in Kuwait so that they can slide right into work when they arrive."
During the ATX, trainers coached the 35th Combat Aviation Brigade Soldiers through situations such as loss of communications with aircraft, air medical evacuation and recovery of a downed aircraft, said Maxwell.
Before the start of the exercise, the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence commanding general, Maj. Gen. Anthony Crutchfield spoke to the group of more than 130 Soldiers from the 35th Combat Aviation Brigade and the nearly 50 trainers and subject matter experts from the 166th Aviation Brigade.
"There's no experience required for the ATX; we will give it to you," Crutchfield said. "Use this training to sharpen the pencil and your processes and how you will work together. At the end of the exercise, you will know more about yourselves and about each other."