News: Kansas Guardsmen train for deployment to the Horn of Africa
Story by Sgt. Jessica Barnett
FORT RILEY, Kan. - In preparation for a deployment to the Horn of Africa, Kansas National guardsmen of Battery B., 1st Battalion, 161st Field Artillery conducted training at Fort Riley, Kan., Feb. 17.
Approximately 100 soldiers traveled to Fort Riley, Kan., for the training. About 550 soldiers that will be deploying in April for the second Kansas National Guard mission to the Horn of Africa. They will be relieving soldiers of the Kansas National Guard’s 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 137th Infantry.
Soldiers trained on live fire exercise scenarios with .30-caliber and .50-caliber machine guns mounted on armored humvees to develop team cohesion, problem solving skills, quick reaction, and so much more that is needed as a soldier.
“We combined truck operations with dismounts, where soldiers engage several different preplanned targets,” said Capt. William Chuber, battery commander, and native of Fort Leavenworth, Kan. “The range itself is pretty interesting. It has pop up targets that are computerized, so we can pick which targets we would like for them to engage, be it a truck, a tank or little fake human silhouettes. That is kind of what we are producing today.”
“They have to run a route like what you see here on our sand table, and then we also provide variables … While they are in a firing engagement they also have to call for artillery or a scenario where one of the trucks break down where they have to hook up and tow a truck out of the training area. It is designed specifically to get the truck crews working together.”
During their training, the battery invited local media to view the training and interview soldiers. This allowed the community valuable insight on their state guardsmen as well as training the soldiers on media engagements for overseas. Many questions were raised as to the differences in the scenarios the soldiers will face in Africa compared to Afghanistan and Iraq.
“The operational tempo is going to be different. We expect to do a lot of stability operations, working with the local populous and local governments,” said Chuber. “So, it will be different. We will not be kicking down doors or doing full on combat operations like we did in Iraq and Afghanistan. So it should be a little easier deployment. It should also be a deployment where we get to work with the local populous and learn a lot about their culture and hopefully they learn a little bit about us, creating some good friendships and stability in the particular region.”
To make the deployment possible, soldiers from different units across Kansas and from other states transferred to the 161st FA.
“When you have people coming from a variety of different backgrounds … a lot of times they have not been exposed to this type of training or team oriented training,” said Tony Kirk, a squad leader with Battery B., 161st Field Artillery, and a native of Topeka, Kan. “So this allows them to function as a team. And what we do with this training is dry run ourselves up to this point.”
“You take baby steps. It’s a crawl walk run kind of stage. Today we are at the run stage. A lot of this training is new to the soldiers coming in. As we continue to progress through, everyone will kind of understand what their role is and what they are suppose to do.”
More and more Kansas guardsmen are getting the opportunity to train closer to home prior to their deployments overseas, giving them the opportunity to spend more time with their families. The Joint Training Center in Salina, Kan., and many other training sites have also given units the ability to get a lot to the required training accomplished during regular drills.
“Training in Kansas benefits the state all around,” said Kirk. “With the community I come from, there is a lot of community support. So training the soldiers right here, and giving them the opportunity not to travel very far away and still get the quality training that they need prior to the [mobilization] site is extremely important. This shows that Kansas is fully capable of training up their troops and getting them prepared to go serve and conduct missions overseas. It means that we are providing quality training and we don’t have to go out of the state to do that.”