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The heartbeat of Carolina Thunder 2015

Commanding Unit


North Carolina National Guard
Raleigh, NC, US

The heartbeat of Carolina Thunder 2015


Story by Sgt. Leticia Samuels

The heartbeat of Carolina Thunder 2015 FORT BRAGG, N.C. – When you hear the Carolina Thunder during football season you think, the Carolina Panthers, but it’s not the thunder of drums you’re hearing it’s the rotation of helicopter blades.

The North Carolina Army National Guard’s (NCARNG) 1st Battalion, 130th Attack Reconnaissance Regiment, conducted their second annual Carolina Thunder aviation training exercise here and at the Stanly County Airport in New London, North Carolina, July 31, 2015 – Aug. 2, 2015.

Carolina Thunder 2015 was a multi-state, multi-component training exercise that included participation from the NCARNG (aviation and artillery), North Carolina Air National Guard, South Carolina Army National Guard, Alabama Army National Guard, and active-duty Airmen, Soldiers and Special Forces personnel.

“I think it (Carolina Thunder 2015) keeps us relevant because it shows that we can do a joint operation, meaning we can coordinate with (Army) aviation, Special Forces and active-duty airborne units” said U.S. Army Capt. Eric Juarez, the Carolina Thunder 2015 battle captain. “It shows that we can all work together to plan an event like this and execute it well.”

During a military operation the Tactical Operation Center is the heartbeat of the operation making sure everything is being performed accordingly, but at the same time it can be over looked during the mission due to the action happening far away.

“I think it (the TOC) is extremely critical because everything that is happening with the mission, all the information is flowing through this central point,” said Juarez. “If something is not happening or if it is going according to plan, you’re going to know about it by walking into the TOC.”

The TOC is the central hub for all mission tracking; it allows the battle captain to brief the command group, of any operation, on what his or her combat power is when facing a mission. This allows the task force commander to be able to allocate a safe course of action while keeping a visual of the battlefield as operations are taking place.

“As a battle captain, I manage everything that is going on in the TOC,” said Juarez. “As far as my staff, I’ve got an Air Force weather section, a RTO (who is operating the radio, talking to aircraft crew members, refuelers and maintainers) and I have various operations specialists (Who are updating spreadsheets, as far as where we are in the mission timeline).”

The numerous sections combining their information together make the operational picture for the battle captain, and he is assisted by a noncommissioned officer (NCO). The battle NCO’s main function is to receive the information from each section and be able to update the battle captain at any time about the operation.

“We are the flow of information, all the information comes to us. We have to decipher the information and have it available upon request,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Thomas Mullaney, the Carolina Thunder 2015 Battle NCO.

Knowing the weather conditions are another critical factor when conducting Army aviation operations.

“Our job is to provide service weather forecasts and en route weather forecast for aviation,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Jennifer Powell, a weather forecaster with the 156th Weather Flight, 145th Airlift Wing, North Carolina National Guard. “On bad weather days you would have to worry about severe thunderstorms producing lighting or hail. In the winter time, we would have to worry about icing on the aircrafts making it heavier or bad winds, so we take action to protect the assets.”

Interoperability is another critical aspect in a TOC. The ability to back up someone while they’re away and still maintain mission effectiveness is key.

“Everybody has had some type of training where they can step up into a role if need be,” said Mullaney. “It’s a critical position but everybody is being trained, it’s all part of that cross training, everybody should know every job, and every position.”

Away from the TOC support operations are also a crucial piece of the training exercise. The Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) is a major function during Carolina Thunder 2015.

“Our job at the FARP is to ensure the safe rearming and refueling of the aircrafts participating in live-fire training exercise,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Michael Corbin, the Carolina Thunder 2015 FARP officer in charge.

As the attack helicopters land at the FARP, they’re re-armed by North Carolina and South Carolina Army National Guard armor specialists. This joint-state operation brings together different unit’s operating procedures.

“Our job here is critical to the mission because we collectively bring our SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) together,” said Spc. Joseph Nalley, a 1st Battalion, 151st Attack Reconnaissance Regiment, armor specialist.

The operations conducted at the TOC and FARP helped solidified the training exercise’s success.

“Carolina Thunder was a huge success! All the hard work and long hours paid off in the end. It brought numerous states together along with our active component counterparts,” said Juarez. “We accomplished many training objectives, both ground and air, that most units don't have the opportunity to complete.”

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