Becoming a Night Stalker with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), or 160th SOAR(A), became a bit more challenging this month as the Green Platoon training program was conducted here at Fort Huachuca for the first time ever in the unit’s history.
Last November the unit was activated here, taking their first step into the unmanned world of intelligence collection and direct action mission.
Capt. David Trent, company commander, Company A, Special Operations Aviation Training Battalion, or SOATB, explained that the Green Platoon training program, typically conducted at Fort Campbell, Ky., is a five-week course providing Soldiers with intense field and classroom instruction in five basic combat skills: combatives, first responder, weapons, land navigation and teamwork.
As physically and mentally demanding as the program is, it is designed with the unit’s special operations mission in mind. But temporarily training at Fort Huachuca has required some minor adjustments for these Soldiers and their instructors.
“We have compressed the training timeline. It’s the same training and same standard; we just compressed the days so they are training on Saturdays, etc. They are getting the exact same level of training, the same quality of training, that they have to have to pass,” Trent said.
“One of the un-forecasted benefits of coming out here is that the terrain, area and weather is so much more similar to where we do operate in combat theatres around the world,” he continued. “The altitude also helps with the physical conditioning of the Soldiers and the instructors. That has been an amazing benefit. Instead of the forests and the low grounds of the Fort Campbell area, coming out to an actual desert and high mountain environment has been great.”
Trent explained that the idea to change the location for the already-established training program stemmed from budget concerns of the Army.
“We did some budget analysis and in order to send all of these Soldiers from Fort Huachuca to Fort Campbell for training and then send them back, compared to bringing a group of seven cadre out here, is a very large difference,” Trent said. “We have saved the American tax payer over seventy thousand dollars by coming out here instead of doing it at Fort Campbell.
“When we start looking at the budget restraints that the nation is facing, much less the Army, special operations are feeling that too. So the more money we can save, not only does that give us the ability to use that money elsewhere for training purposes, it also helps the Army as a whole.”
“I couldn’t be happier [with how the training is going.] I have heard so many good things from the instructors about how well the students are doing,” Trent said during his visit Feb. 11 – 12 to observe the training first-hand in its environmental change. “They always do a relatively good job because to even get into the special operations community, they have to be a step above the average Army standard.
“But what has made the training so beneficial to us has been the help of Fort Huachuca in general. The warm welcome and essentially rolling out the red carpet with regard to training areas and required resources, thus allowing us to come here and do our job the way we need to do it, has been absolutely above and beyond what we anticipated.”
The possibility for future training sessions at Fort Huachuca is certainly there according to Trent. “If it saves money for us to come out here again, the potential is there and it is definitely something we would like to entertain,” he said.
Because the unit is now assigned to Fort Huachuca, the Soldiers’ transition back to their permanent party headquarters is seamless, following successful completion of the training.
The controlled airspace, temperate climate and high mountain terrain at Fort Huachuca provides the perfect location to stage and train such an elite unit, but it isn’t just 160th SOAR (A) that benefits from such advantages.
As Col. Dan McFarland, Fort Huachuca garrison commander, said during the unit’s activation ceremony last November, “When you look at the defense strategies — special operations, unmanned aviation and joint — they are all part of the future and that is what we think we have here. By having the 160th here, we can tap into all of those.”
The successful completion of the Green Platoon training program here locally is yet another example of just that, McFarland said.