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ADA Battalion completes week-long field exercise

August 9, 2011

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

SUWON AIR BASE, South Korea - Early on Aug. 1, long before sunrise, phones began ringing across Area III.

Noncommissioned officers pounded on doors, waking up Soldiers. Officers loaded their gear and trekked in to their duty stations. The 6th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery had begun its exercise with the mission of testing and validating its capability.

Within an hour, the battalion had accountability of all of its Soldiers, and within a handful of minutes, engines began firing to life.

The Air Defense Artillery song begins with the words, “In the dawn’s early light, through the dark of the night” and the Iron Horse Battalion learned this week exactly what that meant.

Before the sun had left the horizon, the first vehicles were rolling out of Suwon Air Base, moving Alpha Battery to its training location.

Alpha Battery had to contend with massive rains that not only had devastated parts of Korea, but had also made certain training areas inaccessible.

Fortunately, effective training continued throughout the week, resulting in successful Operational Readiness Exercises or Battalion-led tests conducted by evaluators from the sister Patriot battalion on the Korean Peninsula: 2nd Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery.

“It was very wet and muddy,” said Pfc. Jeffrey Holderen, of Baltimore Md., who was on the team that first arrived in the early hours on Monday.

The exercise validated both the communications architecture and the leadership abilities of the Alpha Battery Soldiers.

“I saw junior Soldiers taking ownership and being leaders,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Hockenberry, who observed the muddy training. “Solving problems and making decisions, that was great.”

Meanwhile, the Headquarters and Headquarters Battery went about the task of securing the Battalion Headquarters at Suwon Air Base.

HHB’s Communications Platoon played a big role in networking the widely dispersed batteries.

On top of one of the high stations that function as a critical relay, Sgt. Jesse Cotton of St. Louis, Mo. and Pfc. Christopher Hoernke of Appleton, Wis. worked long and independently to meet the communications needs of the battalion.

“We have to adjust the shots every time a battery moves,” said Cotton.

Charlie Battery, in the meantime, departed Osan Air Base to the training location and had their own problems to deal with. The violent weather that had brought the rain also brought funnel clouds and tornado warnings to the area. This required shutting down and temporarily moving Soldiers to a secure location, until the Battery Commander, Capt. Michael Woodhouse, could determine that the training could safely resume.

Spc. Logan Garcia, of San Bernadino, Calif, said, “I could see the funnel almost touch the ground. It was awesome.”

Spc. Adam Kofoed, of West Branch, Iowa, no stranger to tornadoes, said, “It made me a little homesick.”

Following the all-clear, the battery resumed training and validating the skills required to conduct their mission.

Delta Battery took advantage of the time to conduct launcher reload training.

Innovative NCOs found ways to overcome the constraints of the training environment, with concrete pads that cannot have marking stakes pounded in traditional manner.

“We use the water bottles,” said Staff Sgt. Willie Roberson, a Launcher Squad Leader and acting First Sergeant. “Tied to the lanyard, they provide the right distance and we get effective training.”

Foxtrot Company, the maintenance and support organization, had its own problems to overcome. Only one air conditioner mechanic was on hand to service all the environmental control units that keep the innumerable computers and delicate equipment in operating temperatures.

Pfc. Brett Mecham, of Hawthorne, NV, worked long days in order to keep up with the demand for his specialized services.

“Honestly,” said Mecham of being the only AC repairman available, “I love it. It’s just great.”

Bravo Battery worked hard and around the clock in defense of its position, successfully conducting netted air battles, while exercising its equipment.

The exercise concluded Aug. 5 and the Iron Horse Soldiers prepared to move into next week’s recovery operations.

Despite the weather, despite the long hours, the Iron Horse Soldiers effectively conducted the field exercise, linking in with the brigade and developing the necessary skills to defend the Korean Peninsula. This is due entirely to the unflagging spirit of the Battalion’s Soldiers and their willingness to go the extra mile in the service of their country.

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