‘Broncos’ hold mile-high training at Pohakuloa

| June 29, 2017 | 0 Comments

Spc. William Holt, indirect fire infantrymen, assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, applies camouflage face paint prior to the start of a fires coordination exercise (FCX) lane at the Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, on June 25, 2017. The Soldiers provided indirect fire support during near pitch-black conditions to maneuver elements during the FCX. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division)

Story and photos by
Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon
3rd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs
25th Infantry Division

POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii — Maneuver elements of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, found invaluable support from mortar, artillery and helicopter gunships during a fire support coordination exercise (FCX), here, June 24-26.

The maneuvers were held on the Big Island of Hawaii at the more than mile high plateau between Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea and the Hualalai volcanic mountains.

An AH-64 Apache helicopter assigned to the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, turns for the attack on a target during the start of a fires coordination exercise (FCX) lane at the Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, on June 25, 2017. The 25th CAB provide direct fire support for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th ID during the FCX. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division)

The purpose of the FCX is to provide realistic training, which includes maximum flexibility during the company-level maneuvers.

Second Lt. Victor Perez, a native of Snyder, Oklahoma, and a fire support officer (FSO) assigned to 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd BCT, said the FCX “allows us to practice with our maneuver element and also be able to deconflict measures such as coordination and indirect fires.”

Perez said the training with close air support assets such as the AH-64 Apache helicopter provides excellent planning to deconflict the use of air and indirect fire assets.

“We get down here to really train and focus … for when the next war … happens,” he said. “It’s not exactly being overseas, but allows us to get really good training out here.”

Capt. Trent Sutterfield, a native of Indianapolis, Indiana, and commander of Blackfoot Troop, 3-4th Cav. Regt., said it was a great experience for his troops on PTA.

“It’s a chance to not only work with your platoon leaders, which you work with quite a bit, but that external audience such as your FSO, your fire support coordination piece with the artillery and mortars,” Sutterfield said.

He stated the ranges were doable on the island of Oahu, but they’re a great many constraints for training on the high population island.

“This allows us to build again, not just shoot our maneuver elements or normal direct fire systems, such as the M2 machine gun and Mark 19 grenade launcher, but also emphasize our fires capabilities and air platforms,” he said. “We have the land and the ability without constricting training of other units on Schofield.”

Pfc. Merrill Xavier, a wheeled vehicle mechanic assigned to 29th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, mans a M240B machine gun turret atop a HMMWV during a fires coordination exercise (FCX) at the Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, on June 24, 2017. The battalions of 3rd BCT went through a series of realistic combat lanes during the three daylong FCX. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division)

The company-level leadership involved their FSOs during their operational planning.

“We involved them in our planning process and directly through our fire support officer and fire support NCO,” he said. “They develop the fires plan as we conduct the maneuvers piece and build that on top in support of us.”

Spc. Matthew Blankenship, a native of Sparta, North Carolina, and a fire support specialist assigned to 3-4th Cav. Regt., worked directly with the maneuver elements on the simulated battlefield.

Blankenship stated the tight constraints on the ranges on Oahu make it difficult for the M777 150 mm howitzer to fire with full affect during training.

“There’s a lot of wide open places, so we can use some of our larger caliber weapon systems,” he said. “You can’t really fire that well at Schofield because there isn’t enough range to. So when we come to PTA, we get to actually use the larger caliber weapons in the way it was designed to be used.”

With his second rotation at PTA, Blankenship’s views on the PTA ranges were highly positive.

“I never imagined Hawaii being like this,” he said. “It’s sort of a desert climate, and it’s really different. It’s a really good place to train.”

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Category: News, Training

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