First Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, spent last week in the field conducting an operational readiness exercise to prepare soldiers for a mission readiness exercise this month, as well as the unit’s scheduled deployment later this summer.
The battalion has five batteries participating in the operational readiness exercise, and the unit has been in and out of a field environment since December preparing their equipment for the upcoming evaluations that will test their abilities to accomplish the mission they will encounter while downrange.
The battalion will be evaluated by its higher headquarters, the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command at Fort Bliss.
“It’s time to validate that all of the work we’ve been doing is being done properly,” said 1st Lt. Jarrett Brotzman, the officer in charge of the battalion’s Charlie Battery.
The unit is ready to be tested on its capabilities to successfully complete a war-time mission, Brotzman said.
The sites are manned constantly. The soldiers are split up into three crews, with each crew rotating on 12-hour shifts, as compared to the 24-hour shifts each crew will work while in a deployed environment.
One of the upsides to being downrange is less distraction, Brotzman said. The families are very supportive and understanding of this training schedule, but it is always difficult on the soldiers to be away from their families, he said.
Town hall meetings and family readiness group meetings were a big part of educating the families and ensuring they were aware of the schedule and the training process.
Even though the training schedule was demanding, it is a necessary part of making sure the units are prepared to take on the impending mission of guarding the skies in the Central Command region.
This will be the first deployment for Pfc. Elizabath Heacox, a tactical control assistant with Charlie Battery.
“It will be nice to go out and do the job in the real world. We’ve been doing a lot of training, and I’m ready to go,” Heacox said.
The goal of this training exercise is to simulate a war-time situation, said Sgt. Carmelo Arroyo, of Bravo Battery.
“This is the best way we can simulate with soldiers doing this for real,” Arroyo said.
One of the focuses of this exercise was the unit’s ability to conduct air battles. During the air battles, the soldiers are made aware of an incoming threat, and they need to follow proper protocol in order to eliminate that threat, said Staff Sgt. Casey West, of Bravo Battery.
“We do what we need to do to defend assets and eliminate the threat,” Arroyo said.
In addition to the air battles, the units also will be evaluated on things such as site management, safety and maintenance, Brotzman said.
“If there is any battery that is ready to do this, it’s Bravo Battery,” West said.