Ready for anything: 1-135th AHB deploys to National Training Center
By Amn Michaela R. Slanchik, 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 30, 2017
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --
Soldiers wake up at the crack of dawn, dust themselves off from their sandy cot–if they were lucky enough to have one, and throw on full battle rattle. They rip open their favorite MRE and hope they can finish it before the attacks begin.
Each soldier, along with their 4,000 battle buddies, is ready to simulate combat as accurately as possible for a month in 1,200 square miles of the driest desert in North America, the Mojave Desert.
Members of the 1-135th Assault Helicopter Battalion (AHB) recently returned from practicing these combat training missions at the National Training Center (NTC) in Fort Irwin, Calif.
The NTC prepares Brigade Combat Teams and other units for combat by conducting realistic training operations. The Eagle Team operations group at the NTC observed, coached and trained the 1-135th AHB and other service members on their combat-related abilities. Those ranged from executing proper mission planning, security, reactions to chemical attacks, to conducting convoys and overall readiness.
Six UH-60 Blackhawks, along with 197 soldiers deployed to the NTC from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to attend this training. The soldiers trained for nearly nine months on different scenarios in preparation for combat operations.
In order to make this training as realistic as possible without injuring trainees, the NTC teams use laser-programed devices that, when triggered by an enemy’s laser, notify the soldiers that they have been struck and need to simulate the scene as it would happen in real combat.
Guns, rockets, cannons and missiles are all programed through the laser technology, along with aircraft, tanks and personnel with the laser-beam receivers. In addition to the lasers, soldiers also shot more than 1,400 rounds of 30 mm blank-cartridge ammo.
The training center tested aviators’ response to notional enemy fire, simulated with the laser technology pointed at the aircraft from the ground by NTC Eagle Team soldiers. Downed Aircraft Recovery Teams (DART) refined their skills by reacting to the scene with appropriate measures. The DARTs practiced medical evacuations, provided mechanics, tools and parts to fix the aircraft and get it back in the fight.
Members of support and flight medical companies from 26 states across the country all attended the training.
The NTC drilled three main points to the soldiers for successful training—situational awareness, integration and communication.
The soldiers are taught to be prepared for anything at all times during missions and battlefield tasks.
“We integrated aviation units from multiple states under one task force that was headed by our Missouri National Guard at Whiteman. Our task force worked for the Brigade Combat Team out of Mississippi and they integrated our capabilities and assets into their ‘battle rhythm’ and planning processes,” said 1st Sgt. Brian Johnson, the 1-135th first sergeant.
At the NTC, the soldiers were also taught the importance of communicating from the highest level down to the lowest level. Maintaining communication at all levels with all units was said to be the key to everyone's mission success.
“Such integrated, extensive, in-depth training enhances our combat effectiveness and allows us to be a force multiplier,” said Johnson. “It’s important to get this practice in and learn the lessons in a safe environment, meaning less lives lost and the ability to fight more effectively when it really counts.”
With 12 missions flown, 10 medical evacuations, 44 convoys, a total of 550 hours of flight and many lessons learned, the mission was deemed a success and the soldiers returned home on June 14th.