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    Innovative Combined Arms Exercise at Camp Edwards



    Story by Maj. Brett Walker 

    65th Press Camp Headquarters

    Camp Edwards is the largest military training facility in New England with 15,000 total acres dedicated to Army maneuver areas and training ranges, plus an additional 7,000 acres for use by the Air Force and the Coast Guard. Patriot Crucible used that space to provide round-the-clock training to ten units of the Massachusetts Army National Guard consisting of 494 soldiers and 120 vehicles. Approximately 150 additional soldiers and 80 vehicles were also present for evaluation and administration personnel.

    “We are primarily focusing on the enabling units. They are the primary audience,” said Army Lt. Col. Matthew Porter, the exercise director for Patriot Crucible. “That is the uniqueness of this exercise.”

    Videos documenting preparation, execution and review for each day are available at

    According to Porter, large scale training events featuring maneuver units such as infantry or armor are common for the U.S. military. That results in what Porter referred to as a “capability and training gap between our maneuver units and our enabling units.” By removing those maneuver units, Patriot Crucible concentrated resources on assessing and improving the ability of the troops responsible for supporting the frontline warfighter. Those troops include logisticians, support units, and enablers.

    “The essence of the exercise is we are combining these types of units, whether it is transportation, engineers, chemical, or military police all together,” said Porter.

    Military intelligence, fire fighter and explosive ordinance disposal soldiers also participated in Patriot Crucible.

    “The best thing about Camp Edwards is the varied terrain on the installation. You go from gentle, flat rolling hills to highly challenging, densely forested areas that cause maneuver challenges for units, so there is a wide variety of space,” said Army Capt. Alexander McDonough, the Range Safety Officer for Camp Edwards.

    Porter agreed, “Pretty much anything can be done down here.”

    The premise for Patriot Crucible was that an infantry brigade was conducting an offensive operation against a well-equipped, modern enemy. The support elements were trailing the brigade and, in doing so, providing continuous support to the combat operations, while also providing their own security. That mission became increasingly difficult as the exercise directors introduced additional events into the scenario.

    All of the training units started the exercise at a large, authentic combat outpost permanently installed at Camp Edwards. McDonough described Tactical Training Base Kelley as a “facility that is comprised of what basically a forward operating base would look like overseas.”

    TTB Kelley is named for a member of the Massachusetts National Guard killed in action in 2005. It is surrounded by defensive barriers and concertina wire. McDonough said it features an entry control point, guard towers, internet connectivity and troop tents for up to 600 soldiers.

    From TTB Kelley the various training units conducted tactical convoys to more austere locations in the training area where they then established three different Brigade Support Areas. The convoys took place during both day and night. Along the convoy route, the units encountered several obstacles including debris barriers, hostile civilians and improvised explosive devises.

    “The convoy lane was a challenging land navigation course. It was a difficult route and that was on purpose,” said Army Maj. Joel Simpson, who managed the observer controllers responsible for assessing the training units. “More training still needs to be done, but the units seemed motivated and ready to get training done.”

    Once the units were set in their Brigade Support Areas, they became subject to random harassment by criminal elements and enemy insurgents operating behind the lines. There were also random incidents of indirect fire accompanied by the threat of chemical or biological agents. The training units were thus prompted to conduct chemical reconnaissance functions and perform decontamination functions.

    “The decontamination site training allowed chemical corps soldiers to work with other units to train them on how to properly decontaminate their troops and equipment,” said Army 1st Sgt. Pheacey Chhom.

    Throughout the exercise, the participating units improved their positions. Heavy engineers used bulldozers to dig defilade fighting positions and defensive tank ditches. Horizon engineers laid gravel and asphalt roads to improve trafficability. Truck drivers moved and emplaced obstacles to inhibit attacks.

    While the soldiers participating in Patriot Crucible were bivouacked in the field, other soldiers were in a hard structure building elsewhere on Camp Edwards. Those other soldiers were taking part in Operation Cyber Yankee – an exercise for the Massachusetts National Guard’s new cyber defense force. The 126th Cyber Protection Battalion was established on October 1, 2017. The two training events, Cyber Yankee and Patriot Crucible, interacted in various ways. For instance, when sensitive computer hardware was seized from enemy defectors participating in Patriot Crucible, that hardware was passed to the cyber warriors participating in Cyber Yankee, who extracted intelligence from the hardware that they then passed back to the Patriot Crucible participants.

    “This is the first time we have integrated cyber electromagnetic activity and support to tactical operations into the exercise,” said Army Col. Richard Berthao, the exercise director for Cyber Yankee. “We provided laptops and thumb drives that had intelligence on them and teams here conducted forensic analysis of those items to extract intelligence such as maps.”

    A special forces team and aviation assets also participated throughout the week. Operational Detachment team 2132 conducted a surgical raid to capture an enemy officer at the Camp Edwards urban terrain site. They inserted into the site using a technique known as “fast roping” wherein the soldiers slide down a rope from a hovering helicopter.

    Immediately after that raid, the rest of the training units were informed of a simulated helicopter crash. Army fire fighters scrambled to the location of the crash where a blazing fire surrounded an inverted car representing the downed helicopter. The fire fighters had to extinguish the flame and extract the passengers. Earlier in the exercise, the same fire fighting detachments had been called upon to rescue life-size dummies from cars crushed by large cement blocks.

    “We do not have an opportunity to work with soldiers from other units much, so that was a nice part of this,” said Army Sgt. Scott Fritscher, an Army fire fighter assigned to the 180th Fire Fighter Detachment.

    “This is essential training to prepare the Army’s combat support formations to win in complex future conflicts,” said Army Col. Tim Watson, the Active Component Advisor to the Massachusetts National Guard and a formed Brigade Commander in the 82nd Airborne Division. “From what I observed, Patriot Crucible challenged units to operate in a decisive action training environment where missions needed to be accomplished while simultaneously maintaining security. The complex scenarios pushed soldiers to operate in combat conditions without the luxuries of Forward Operating Bass that many grew accustomed to during the past 15 years of war. This ambitious exercise is exactly the type of training senior Army leaders have directed to increase combat proficiency across the Army.”

    The Massachusetts National Guard and the staff at Camp Edwards plan to build upon Patriot Crucible 2018 in future years. The next combined arms exercise hosted at Camp Edwards is likely to involve more units, more soldiers, more missions; and less sleep.



    Date Taken: 06.12.2018
    Date Posted: 06.12.2018 17:27
    Story ID: 280700
    Location: BOURNE, MA, US 

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