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6-52nd ADA Battalion holds squad training in Korea

June 14, 2011

By Capt. Austin Liu, 6-52nd Air Defense Artillery, 35th ADA Brigade Public Affairs

WARRIOR BASE, South Korea -- The brisk morning air is thick with moisture and excitement.

All around, one could hear only the chirping of birds interrupted by the occasional crackle of dry leaves, as silhouette after silhouette traversed through the dense vegetation.

One by one, the silhouettes gradually turned into the shape of Soldiers and then the outline of full battle gear and the distinctive Dragon Brigade unit patch can be discerned as the figures tactically approached their objective: a seemingly dilapidated building that could be harboring an enemy weapon cache.

Almost immediately, the leaders begin directing their Soldiers to peel off and clear the building. And on a count of three, the team storms in. Bursts of small arm fire echoes sharply through the forest, followed by an eerie silence.

“All cleared!” a Soldier yells, as drops of sweat pour down from his chin onto his weapon.

The squad leader then commands his Soldiers to form a perimeter defense around the objective. And now, they wait anxiously for the enemy to appear in their crosshairs.

The Soldiers, all assigned to Headquarters Battery, 6th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery, are on a mission this morning to secure and set up a perimeter at a remote and unfamiliar location, as part of the battalion’s situation training exercise that took place here at Warrior Base June 2 - 9.

In a few minutes, the Soldiers will be tested on their skill to not only repel an all-out enemy attack but also on their ability to remain composed while exercising effective command and control.

In addition, the evaluators are testing the Soldiers ability to conduct basic warrior tasks, such as conducting crew-served weapons function checks and depicting an accurate range card.

But the most grueling challenge lies in the leader and Soldiers ability to adapt and think on their feet under an ever-changing hostile environment.

“The missions will never unfold in a linear fashion because we designed the lanes to challenge not only the physical but also the mental limit of the participants,” said Staff Sgt. Derek Dickerson, the STX noncommissioned officer-in-charge. “It’s a realistic simulation of what these troops will likely encounter under a combat environment.”

The Michigan native continued, “When your body is pushed to the limit, only your motivation and intestinal fortitude can take you to the next level … and that is what we want to teach to the young Soldiers during the exercise.”

There were a total of five lanes during the STX training, to include a mounted operation with an IED attack enroute, a dismounted reconnaissance mission with a surprise encounter with an CBRN contaminated are, and a combat life saver lane that required Soldiers to stick a real IV into their fellow comrade.

“In the recon lane, for example, the Soldiers must don their MOPP IV gear under the prescribed time limit while traveling miles and miles to accomplish their mission, not to mention remaining tactical the entire way,” said Dickerson.

Staff Sgt. Sam Howard, one of the squad leaders participating in the training, said “[the training] was very realistic and really taught Soldiers the core of surviving on the battlefield.”

The motor pool noncommissioned officer in charge assigned to Headquarters Battery is a combat veteran who has served multiple tours overseas.

“It was great training,” Pfc. David Rogers of Bravo Battery, 6-52nd Air Defense Artillery, said, “I got to see how myself and my team function under pressure during the lanes.”

Maj. Frederick Ramirez, the 6-52nd ADA Battalion operations officer-in-charge, disclosed that “due to the technically demanding nature of the air defense artillery branch, the majority of an air defense Soldiers training is focused on achieving proficiency of branch-specific tasks.”

Hence, according to Ramirez, who has recently returned from Afghanistan after serving in a Military Transition Team mission, “it is crucial that whenever [the unit] gets the opportunity to train on basic warrior tasks and drills and other non-air defense oriented tasks, [the unit] must make the most out of it.”

Dickerson and Howard both believed the Soldiers benefitted tremendously from the training.

“Just look at their sweaty faces after they have successfully accomplished their missions, you know it was an experience they will never forget,” Dickerson chuckled and said.

Ramirez concluded,“The situation training exercise and the scenarios our Soldiers experienced during the STX lanes were more in line with what the Soldiers will likely see in the full spectrum operation and not what they are accustomed to in the air defense realm, so it was definitely a training event with positive and measureable outcomes.”

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