Deploying from the National Capital, European Baltic Regions to NTC in under a year

Alpha Battery, 1-265th Air Defense Artillery Battalion Short Range Air Defense (SHORAD) of the Florida National Guard conducted a rotation at the Army’s National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., 11 months after simultaneously redeploying Soldiers from a yearlong homeland defense deployment in support of the National Capital Region Integrated Air Defense System mission and the European Deterrence Initiative mission.

Typically, a rotation through a Combat Training Center is to prepare a unit for an upcoming deployment, not after. However, due to the high demand for air defense artillery capabilities at home and abroad, air defense batteries usually are able to support only one out of every 10 NTC rotations.

The NTC rotation with the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team of the Mississippi Army National Guard required a maneuver SHORAD Avenger Air Defense System battery to integrate with their air defense airspace management/brigade aviation element cell. Transitioning from the NCR mission to the NTC mission was no easy feat. First most, the NCR is a non-standard mission providing static, point defense with certified three person Avenger crews as opposed to the unit’s standard Modified Table of Organizational Equipment mission, which requires certified two person Avenger crews.

The current SHORAD MTOE, however, was not originally designed or configured for maneuver support and requires cross-leveling personnel and equipment from both headquarters and maintenance units to provide the resources and capabilities to be a standalone battery. Even with the high operational tempo due to personnel supporting COVID-19 missions throughout Florida and cross-leveled on deployment in support of other air defense missions, the battery was able to reconfigure and recertify 12 Avenger crews.

Alpha battery Soldiers faced several more challenges in this rotation to the NTC, to include a last minute reduction in funding that resulted in zero external ADA observer controllers/trainers (OC/Ts) being available and supporting an understaffed BCT ADAM cell. The battery had to reduce the number of authorized Avenger crews in the ‘box’ to have Soldiers conduct the OC/T role providing a decrease in defensive capability to the BCT. The 155 ABCT was challenged with manning constraints and had an understaffed and untrained ADAM/BAE cell. The Alpha battery commander and the 1st battalion Command and Control Systems Technician Warrant stepped up and trained the ABCT personnel in these critical roles. This ensured an adequate airspace plan and common operating picture was provided between the ADAM cell and the battery.

Teamwork and innovation were cornerstones of Alpha battery Soldiers throughout the NTC rotation as they operated in extreme weather conditions regularly reaching as high as 113 degrees. These temperatures made it increasingly difficult to maintain and operate the nearly 40-year-old AN/TWQ-1 Avenger Air Defense system as repair parts are increasingly difficult to obtain and workaround solutions had to be developed. An example of the unit’s innovation was employing a non-MTOE Expandable Van Shelter for use as their battery tactical operations center, enabling the headquarters to be increasingly mobile during constant maneuver efforts. From medics, to maintainers, to crewmembers, every Soldier who saw a shortfall in a capability was quick to provide support and solutions within their battery and their supported headquarters.

Overall morale in these challenging conditions remained high as Soldiers successfully engaged and destroyed multiple rotary wing and fixed wing threats and even attempted to engage several surprising enemy tanks. Some Soldiers reported that they learned more during the repetition required in the three weeks at the NTC than they did at their MOS producing schools.

With a mission of developing leaders today who are prepared for tomorrow’s air defense artillery threats and challenges, Soldiers within Alpha Battery, 1-265th Air Defense Artillery Battalion are eager to share their knowledge and lessons learned.

National Guard Avenger air and missile defense units across five states all share the common challenge of trying to maintain their current platform system operationally effective while awaiting the Army’s air and missile defense urgently needed modernization efforts and decisions.

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