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    Thunderbolt Brigade ensures old processes while developing new ones


    Photo By Staff Sgt. Jacob Kohrs | Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Jacob Kohrs 

    17th Field Artillery Brigade

    Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.- The 17th Field Artillery Brigade set out at the beginning of April on the over 550 mile trek to Orchard Combat Training Center in Idaho. The training that took place Apr. 3-29, was to stress all the brigade’s systems from logistics, maintenance, communications and the overall firing processes, among others.

    With America’s First Corps being the only Corps aligned to the Pacific and 17th FA Bde. being their Force Field Artillery Headquarters, the brigade could deploy at any time to combat aggression towards a near peer enemy. This exercise was to give the Thunderbolt soldiers the confidence in their equipment and their ability to sustain through limited logistic capabilities.

    “Coordination, synchronization, and planning of the road march forced leaders to consider what it would be like going the distance and facing an opponent during a contingency operation,” said Maj. Richard Farnell, operations officer for 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade. “For instance, if they had to deploy to the pacific theater, the brigade may be called upon to travel across hundreds of miles of terrain in order to be best postured to support the maneuver fight.”

    This past Oct. the Brigade validated its ability to coordinate artillery for I Corps in a near peer fight during the Warfighter Exercise 18-2. WFX 18-2 was the brigade looking up to its higher command. At OCTC, the brigade was looking within to ensure that internal processes work to the lowest levels.

    “WFX 18-2 was an excellent opportunity for the Brigade to test its "up and out" systems, coordinating with higher headquarters, international partners, and adjacent brigades,” said Maj. Manuel Gonzalez, 17th FA Bde’s executive officer. “OCTC allowed us to test our "down and in" systems, providing mission command to subordinate battalions; critical in providing us a holistic assessment of the 17th's readiness. OCTC required us to exercise different types of communications platforms, with much more challenging reporting requirements, while overcoming real world friction in an austere environment.”

    While at OCTC, 308th Brigade Support Battalion and 1-94 FA Reg., two of the three battalions under 17th FA Bde., were given an external evaluation by the Brigade to ensure that both battalions are certified and ready to deploy to support contingency operations.

    “I felt it was a great exercise and a tough challenge,” said First Sgt. Christopher Castignanie, first sgt. of Bravo Battery, 1-94 FA Reg. “It started off on day one with a 550 mile drive to Idaho. From there our soldiers were put to the test right away reacting to different types of enemy threats and they gained a lot of experience coming through this exercise.”

    Part of the evaluation was to see how well 308th BSB was able to take on several auxiliary units.

    “Our mission is to deploy with the batteries and receive other units and plug them in,” said Cpt. Jesmarie Vivesvega, an operations officer with 308th BSB. “So, we had to nail down mission command with these operationally controlled units.”

    308th BSB controlled the operational movements of 63nd Ordinance Co., 513th Transportation Co., and elements of 56th Mobile Medical Battalion, all belonging to 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, during this exercise, explained Vivesvega and it was a learning experience for all involved.

    “It has been a long time since the BSB has moved from JBLM to an unfamiliar location,” said Vivesvega. “The attached units are more use to doing this kind of exercise then we are … and we did learn a lot from the attached units as far as being more expeditionary, and they contributed greatly to the success of the BSB.”

    1-94 FA Reg. had a slightly different type of integration during the exercise. The 16th Combat Aviation Brigade has been working with the 17th FA Bde. to integrate communication systems to allow rocket artillery support during combat operations.

    “Rocket artillery has the range to conduct a suppression of enemy air defense in support of deep shaping operations,” said Farnell. “This is conducted regularly during simulation exercises, but until recently it had not been done live with the soldiers in 1-94 FA Reg.”

    During the live fire, they were able to receive targeting information from two AH-64 Apaches and send rockets into the designated impact area after receiving the command.

    “This worked really well. This is the first time that we have done this … and we were able get the Apaches linked into the network fairly easily,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Alan Soderberg, a command and control systems integrator/ interface control officer with 16th CAB. “We were able to bring that air picture into the fires tactical operations command and were able to provide airspace integration into the fires units on the ground and the Apaches in the air.”

    After all of the training, both new operations and old processes, the soldiers of 17th FA Bde. moved back home feeling more confident in themselves, their equipment and in their mission.

    “My soldiers have a high level of morale, they are fully trained and they are ready to go where ever our nation calls,” said Castignanie.



    Date Taken: 05.01.2018
    Date Posted: 05.21.2018 17:23
    Story ID: 277798

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    Thunderbolt Brigade ensures old processes while developing new ones