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Arizona Guard prepares Soldiers for air assault operations

By Sgt. Amber Bohlman | 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade | Feb. 6, 2018

FLORENCE, Ariz. - Members of the Arizona Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 158th Infantry Regiment combined forces with 1st and 2nd Battalions, 285th Aviation Regiment for an air assault training exercise, Jan. 20, at Rittenhouse Training Area. Conducting this training not only made Arizona Guardsmen more prepared for future deployments, but also boosted the moral of the Soldiers.

“This type of training is very rare so we are definitely grateful for the opportunity,” said Maj. Loong Lee, 1-158th executive officer. “It adds an almost exponential level moral boost to each of the Soldiers that are going through the air assault.”

The exercise involved a multi-ship airlift, comprising of five UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. Each of the nine airlifts transported infantry platoons to Florence Military Reservation to various landing areas before taking on the mock enemy.

“This is essential training because our job as the infantry is to get close with and destroy the enemy; and for us to get to the enemy, is through assault aviation,” Lee said.

Conducting training operations of this complexity takes months of preparation. Both units had to work hand in hand to ensure that each of them was meeting training goals.

“We gauge [success] by having all of our Soldiers successfully completing this air-assault landing in Florence, and every single one of them going in and completing their attack on their objective,” Lee said.

This was the first time many Soldiers involved in this training exercise have flown in an operation of this scale, or even in a Black Hawk helicopter.

“We gained a lot out of it for ourselves, and the newer pilots – gaining the experience needed to do a real air assault in a combat zone,” said CW2 Riley Burdick, A Company, 1-285 Aviation Regiment Safety Officer.

Aviation’s mission was to support the ground commander and ensure that every group of infantrymen was reaching their targets accurately and on time.

“We didn’t miss any of our time on targets on this mission. Of the nine separate flights, we were within 30 seconds from when the ground commander wanted to be there,” “That’s a big feat – there’s nothing better than actually being able to do that.”

Training like this maintains a high level of readiness for missions across the globe and provides a combat ready reserve to a stressed active duty component.