By Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr. and Sgt. Mike Alberts
25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs
WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii – In final preparation for their deployment to Iraq later his year, the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade conducted their comprehensive Culminating Training Event that took place throughout the Hawaiian Islands and at the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, Calif., April 25 through May 3.
Soldiers from each of the 25th CAB’s battalions were joined by key leaders from the 3rd Infantry Division and 2nd Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment, an attack/ reconnaissance battalion, throughout the CTE. Marines from Combat Assault Company, 3rd Marine Regt., also took part with United States Army, Pacific (USARPAC) providing Observer-Controllers (OCs) to assist with training oversight. Additional OC coverage came from the Joint Multi-National Readiness Center (JMRC) from Germany, I-Corps based in Fort Lewis, Wash., and the Battle Command Training Program (BCTP), from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
In one scenario, teams of Soldiers and air assets were dispatched to recover a downed aircraft on Oahu. Simultaneously, ground elements were conducting convoy, re-supply and humanitarian missions on Kauai and the big island of Hawaii. Moments later and hundreds of miles away in California, attack helicopters were engaging enemy targets and collecting reconnaissance and surveillance information on enemy encampments.
All of this occurred over the span of just one hour and represented one of dozens of realistic combat scenarios faced by the 25th CAB during the CTE.
With units spread throughout the Hawaiian Islands and California, communication was critical in keeping the 25th CAB in step. The constant chatter of the multiple task force command posts and on-going operations was the norm in the Brigade’s bustling Tactical Operations Center.
Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 25th Avn. Regt., known as Task Force “Diamond Head,” composed of various elements of each of the 25th CAB’s battalions, as well as select Soldiers from 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th ID, deployed to the Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA) and experienced firsthand the difficulties of operating away from home station. The task force staff tackled the challenge of synchronizing operations with both higher echelon staffs and subordinate units just as they would in combat.
“The major advantage to going to PTA is that it forces us to react and perform with what we have,” explained Capt. Clayton Carpenter, assistant operations and training officer, 2-25th Avn. Regt. “What you pack up and bring with you is what you have to work with, and in that regard, it closely simulates deployment,” he said.
“Additionally, PTA is of tremendous value for us because it allows the staff to receive missions, work through their various drills, push [orders and missions] down to the companies which, in turn, work through their drills and standard operating procedures, and execute,” he continued. “The event was a success and much of that success is due to the hard work of the Task Force “Diamond Head” Soldiers.”
One of those Soldiers was Sgt. Anthony Adams, the medical noncommissioned officer-in-charge during the CTE for 2-25th Avn.
For Adams, a combat veteran, PTA was particularly important because it gave him the opportunity to train Soldiers on combat scenarios that are difficult to simulate in Garrison.
“During this training, we duplicate those high stress environments that medics face in combat, from giving [fluid intravenously] in the back of a moving vehicle to working in the dark or under noise discipline conditions,” he said. “The idea is to introduce as much stress as possible into the training. The bottom line is that as a combat medic the chances are good that you will have someone’s life in your hands. We’re constantly improving to be prepared for that reality. PTA allows us to closely simulate conditions that we simply can’t do back home,” he continued.
Even while operating under the increased stress and challenging situations the brigade still managed to safely and successfully fly over 2,000 hours while conducting missions such as convoy operations, downed aircraft recovery, re-supply missions, humanitarian relief, water purification, UAV recovery, MEDEVAC, reconnaissance and surveillance, close combat attacks, MOUT training and many other combat-focused operations.
Col. Michael Lundy, commander, 25th CAB, elaborated on some of the CAB’s specific accomplishments during the CTE.
“During the CTE, the CAB conducted over 669 flights flying over 2,200 hours,” said Lundy. “That includes over 1,965 hours of live flight time and 240 hours of virtual flying using a system called the Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer, or AVCATT. CTE situational training and full spectrum operations were conducted on Oahu, Kauai, NTC and PTA from April 25 through May 3. This included everything from counter IED missions to congressional delegation support.”
The goal of these complex operations was to give senior leaders a final opportunity to train, refine and validate the most current tactics, techniques and procedures as they apply in today’s operating environment in Iraq. Equally vital was the opportunity to observe Soldiers in action, correct any deficiencies and ensure unit cohesion with future unit attachments that will integrate with the 25th CAB once deployed.
“Our objective was to put leaders out there and eliminate their weaknesses,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Osvaldo Martell, battalion command sergeant major, 209th ASB.
“We owe that to the Soldiers, from seniors to the most junior Soldiers. It is our responsibility to train them. If leaders don’t know, they won’t be able to train their junior Soldiers. So I think everybody learned where they can improve.”
With the CTE complete, the senior leaders of the 25th CAB can take the lessons learned from the CTE and use them to continue improving operating procedures right up until the unit’s scheduled rotation to Iraq. Understanding this point, the “Wings of Lightning” Brigade commander appreciated the effort from the brigade and all of the supporting elements during the exercise.
“I’d like to thank all of the OC’s and their support from the BCTP, JMRC, I-Corps and USARPAC, as well as the subject matter experts from 10th CAB and Task Force ODIN, who provided invaluable feedback at the brigade and task force level on battle command, maneuver, sustainment and intelligence operations,” said Lundy. “We also received tremendous support from the 3rd ID staff, BCTC, DPTMS, USARPAC, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry BCT, 25th ID, 45th Sustainment Brigade and MARFORPAC, in both the development and execution of the CTE. This exercise was instrumental in our pre-deployment operations as it provided the necessary stress across the brigade to continue to improve all of our systems, processes and TTPs.”
By Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr. and Sgt. Mike Alberts