News: Artillerymen prepare for aerial extrication mission
Story by Sgt. Thomas Duval
FORT KNOX, Ky. – A select group of artillerymen from the 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, are preparing to save lives in Afghanistan.
The Fort-Knox-based soldiers have spent the last few months training as an Aerial Reaction Force and after months of planning and classroom training the team put their skills to the test during an extraction exercise coordinated by the Fort Knox Fire Department July 3.
This unique mission requires the Artillerymen to respond to down aircrafts, in Afghanistan, and help rescue, recover and evacuate the pilots and crews of various helicopters.
“Being a Field Artillery Battery you’re firing indirect support for your infantry brothers downrange, now we actually have boots on ground saving someone’s life… it’s bigger than anything we have ever done and anything I have ever been a part of,” said 1st Sgt. Anthony Lacy, Senior enlisted non-commissioned officer in charge for Alpha Battery, 1st Bn., 6th FA Regt.
During the hands on training exercise, soldiers from every rank practiced using various tools used by fire fighters during extrication to include the ‘Jaws of Life’, spreaders and combination tools.
“We have a good idea for what tools they will be using when they get to deployed so we are trying to relate those tools to the ones we use,” said Assistant Fire Chief Shane Crutcher. “It’s easy to sit in a classroom and say OK you put this here and pry this and you're OK, in reality you get out here and realize you’re holding a 50 lb tool for 15 minutes trying to pry a door open.”
To enhance the scenario, the Fire fighters called on a local junkyard for a few different types of vehicles and then let the soldiers practice using the tools to cut, pry and remove their doors and windows.
Crutcher said the shells of the vehicles are similar to those of the helicopters they will work with downrange and getting hands on will give them a unique opportunity to become familiarized with the different challenges they may face while deployed.
Pfc. Brian Balsz echoed Crutcher’s thoughts.
“This has been a once in a lifetime opportunity; not many people can say they got to tare open a car with firefighters,” said Balsz. “I’m looking forward to getting over there and saving someone life and doing my job the best I can.”
As the team of soldiers gets closer to their deployment, their confidence continues to grow and according to Lacy they are ready for whatever mission is thrown at them.
“We started off preparing mentally then moved onto hands on training …we are very prepared,” Lacy said with enthusiasm.
The artillerymen will continue to hone their skills until they deploy later this year with various squad level live-fire exercises.