EDINBURGH, IN, UNITED STATES
Story by Staff Sgt. Brigette Waltermire
137th Special Operations Wing
Warfighter is a nine-day, 24-hour warfighter exercise that brought together the 146th ASOS with the Oklahoma National Guard 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (45th IBCT) and for the first time, the Minnesota Army National Guard 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division (1/34th ABCT). Eight participants from the 146th ASOS squadron were split between the two units to provide continuous planning assistance for the Army training audience.
“Our contribution to this exercise is to support our two aligned partners,” Master Sgt. Christopher Vaughn, 146th ASOS tactical air control party (TACP) noncommissioned officer in charge. “It is our opportunity to integrate with all the different army entities and shops that we will work with when we deploy.”
Warfighter 18-5 (WFX-18-5) was conducted to help battalions under the 34th Infantry Division reinforce Army battle drills in a computer-simulated combat environment. Conducting these operations in a virtual battlefield allowed the Soldiers to fine-tune standard processes and see the real-time combat results of battle plans, actions and decisions.
“It’s extremely important to build a team mission command, but it’s more than that – it’s getting to know each other,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Kemp, 1/34th ABCT commander. “We have a whole year to build that and trust, and this past week has been critical for that.”
In the past, the 146th ASOS had only worked with infantry brigades (the 45th IBCT and the 79th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in California), so integration with the armored brigade has offered the squadron an opportunity to expand their skill set, said Lt. Col. Craig Ilschner, commander of the 146th ASOS.
“They behave and operate differently from an infantry brigade, so it has been a learning experience for us… but the 1/34th have been great working with us and helping us better understand the way they operate,” he said.
During the exercise, the 146th ASOS acted as a realistic asset during the training and generated requests for air support that were received from the division. Their job during the exercise was to help the Army fire support officer create a joint tactical air request and help submit close air support requests through the Air Force.
Master Sgt. Benjamin Lake, 146th ASOS chief of weapons and tactics, was one of four 146th ASOS members who worked directly with Soldiers in the 1/34th ABCT mobile tactical operations center in 12-hour shifts. This was the fifth warfighter exercise for him, and he said each one has been better than the last. However, he also said WFX-18-5 has been particularly special because of the integration between the 146th ASOS and the 1/34th ABCT.
“The training right now is to help us integrate with the 1/34th ABCT and to let them know what we’re doing,” said Lake. “We’re really learning how their particular brigade operates.”
The 146th ASOS participates in warfighter exercises when necessitated by their Army partners. As a longstanding partner, the 45th IBCT is not new to the processes of the 146th ASOS.
In 2008, the 146th ASOS was established as a tenant unit on WRANGB to support the 45th IBCT and 75th IBCT. They deployed with the 45th IBCT to Afghanistan in 2011 and have regularly been on missions and training exercises since 2013. Their training has evolved over the years to coordinating joint air support for joint and combined operations, such as during Operation Allied Spirit in 2016, in which the 45th and 146th replicated a multi-national division in an operational environment with 12 other countries.
“Our relationship overall has really evolved from basic tactical execution with the TACP six years ago to joint operational planning,” said Chief Warrant Officer Rowdy Isbill, targeting officer for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 45th IBCT. “Our relationship as a guard element with the 146th rivals any active duty unit.”
For Ilschner, WFX 18-5 was not only an opportunity for training and building the 146th ASOS’ existing working relationship with the 45th IBCT, but it also served as proving ground for their new partnership with the 1/34th ABCT.
“This is the foundation of what will be a relationship that I expect to grow and improve over the next several years,” Ilschner said. “We like to be experts at what we do, and we align well with the 1/34th because they have the same training mindset and operational paradigm.”
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