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1st Battalion - 104th Aviation

In 2001 the aviators of Company C, 1-104th Aviation and a command slice from the battalion headquarters headed south to Fort Rucker, Ala., to conduct company collective training at the Aviation Test Bed Simulation complex, commonly known as "AIRNET."

Fifteen aviators and 16 staff personnel participated in the three-day combat simulation geared toward improving company collective training. The AVTB houses seven fully reconfigurable experimental devices which are, in essence, generic cockpits; a UH-60 tactical air control simulation device; a humvee station for Forward Arming and Refueling Point personnel to simulate their move; and a tactical operations center simulator to monitor the battle.

Company C conducted a deep attack to destroy the 110th Brigade Artillery Group of the 4th Motorized Infantry Division. The scenario was based on an operations order developed by the battalion staff to facilitate the company's training and coordinated with the AVTB for simulation programming.

The simulation afforded C Company the opportunity to methodically plan, execute and evaluate a company mission against a doctrinally arrayed enemy force. Field artillery and close air support were integrated to add to the realistic nature of the exercise. Critical lessons were preserved and analyzed during the after action review process. The AVTB has the ability to replay the entire mission, visual and voice, thus providing the commander and crews with the "big picture" perspective that is difficult to capture in the real world.

The exercise ran January 6-9, during which time the company conducted three missions, logging 25 flight-hours, and firing 95 TOW missiles, 62 rockets and 609 rounds of 20mm ammunition. The cost of simulation is minute compared with the cost of actual live training -- estimated at approximately $459,000 -- not to mention the risk mitigation that simulation provides.

The exercise moved fast, but the lessons learned and proficiency gained will have a lasting effect. AIRNET, by far, is the best tool for aviation trainers to exercise and enhance company collective training and will be an essential element of future training plans in the attack helicopter battalion.

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