Division West’s 479th Field Artillery Brigade and 166th Aviation Brigade combined training efforts Friday for two reserve component units that are preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.
Foxtrot Company, 1st Battalion, 169th General Support Aviation Battalion, an Army National Guard unit with soldiers from Missouri, New York, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, provided medical evacuation support for simulated casualties sustained during a convoy operation conducted by the 311th Expeditionary Support Command, an Army Reserve unit from Los Angeles.
“It gives (the soldiers) a visual preview” of what they may encounter in theater, said Sgt. 1st Class Angelica Erinna, a 479th Field Artillery Brigade observer controller/trainer. “Nothing is going to look exactly the same, but at least they have an idea of how to react if something similar happens.
“Not every soldier gets the opportunity to call in a real ‘bird’ while in a training environment. That was one of the highlights today.”
During last week’s training, soldiers in the 311th’s protective service detail traveled a convoy route in five Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles. Along the way, they had to carefully watch for potential threats such as improvised explosive devices, react to an actual simulated IED and small arms attack, and interact with role-played locals in a village.
“It was very helpful, as we’ll be doing something similar (in theater),” said Spc. Jason Sim, an administrative specialist with the 311th. “It gave me good insights into being in contact with the enemy and with locals.”
A simulated IED attack toward the end of the convoy resulted in the 311th suffering two simulated casualties, which gave the unit the opportunity to call for medical evacuation helicopters.
Often, real helicopters are not available to transport “casualties” from units training with Division West, said Capt. Nathan Capestany, officer-in-charge of the 479th Field Artillery observer controller/trainers working with the 311th. Usually, the training units simulate calling for help, protecting and marking a landing zone, and loading their “injured” soldiers.
In this case, however, the soldiers of Foxtrot Company, are training at Fort Hood with the 166th Aviation Brigade, and this is exactly the sort of mission they will be conducting in Afghanistan.
“I like the way that we integrate outside support, especially bringing in the air assets” Capestany said. “Everything that we can do to make it as realistic as possible is going to help them downrange.”