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Home : News
NEWS | Jan. 30, 2023

Deployed New York Guardsmen Train with Active-duty Aviators

By Maj. Avery Schneider, New York National Guard

KATTERBACH, Germany - National Guard Soldiers deployed to Europe recently spent time training with active-duty counterparts to improve their ability to plan and win future battles together.

The Guardsmen, serving in Grafenwoehr, Germany, with the New York National Guard’s Task Force Orion, 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team on the Joint Multinational Training Group – Ukraine mission, met aviators from the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade and air defenders from 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, to learn how their assets can be incorporated into large-scale combat operations.

In December, Task Force Orion treated a holiday lull in their mission training the Ukrainian Armed Forces as an opportunity to train themselves. For two weeks, officers and noncommissioned officers assigned to the task force’s training team turned their focus to the military decision-making process – better known as MDMP.

The seven-step process is used at battalion level and above to enable commanders and their staffs to understand a situation and mission, develop a course of action, and produce a well-thought-out plan for operations.

The Soldiers of Task Force Orion represent 57 military occupational specialties. And while each will get some exposure to different branches and jobs in their careers, the scope of that exposure can be limited.

“We do get kind of siloed in the way we think within our branch,” said Capt. Ishfaque Kamal, an air defense officer assigned to the task force. “But in today’s battle space, especially after fighting 20 years of [counterinsurgency] war, battlefields are changing back to conventional war again.”

Because of that return to focusing on conventional warfare and large-scale combat operations, it is more critical than ever that Army officers and NCOs in both active and reserve components understand the different branches and capabilities across the joint force and how to incorporate them into plans for training and combat.

To help break out of silos and as a bonus to cap off MDMP training, Kamal organized a meeting with the aviation and air defense units stationed nearby at Katterbach Army Airfield.

Standing in front of an AH-64D Apache Longbow on Jan. 4, 1st Lt. Sean Schlagel, an aviation officer assigned to Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment (Attack Battalion), 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, explained the capabilities of the helicopter and how it is employed.

“The most critical thing Soldiers should understand about attack aviation is that we are a maneuver asset. We are like tanks or infantry; we can maneuver around the battlefield,” Schlagel said.

Schlagel told the group that aviation units plan and execute missions based on minimal information. Aviators can determine where they need to go and whether to engage an enemy.

Capt. Michael Archer, an air defense artillery officer assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, gave Task Force Orion an overview of his battalion’s equipment and its mission to provide short-range air defense.

“While we are combat arms, we are here to support maneuver forces and enable their operations so that aerial threats do not impact their capabilities,” Archer said.

The 5-4 ADA was the first U.S. Army unit to field and test the prototype Maneuver Short Range Air Defense system and will be the first M-SHORAD battalion in the Army.

Seeing an Apache or getting inside one of the Army’s newest pieces of air defense equipment is a rarity for most Soldiers – perhaps even more so for National Guardsmen from New York. Because the makeup of units in the National Guard varies from state to state, there is no guarantee that Task Force Orion’s Soldiers would see 12th CAB and 5-4 ADA’s types of equipment at home. New York’s 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade has no attack aircraft, and the nearest air defense units are hundreds of miles away in Ohio and North Carolina.

So Schlagel and Archer made the most of Task Force Orion’s visit.

The Guardsmen sat in the Apache cockpit and flew in a CH-47 Chinook to get a feel for Army cargo aviation capabilities. And Archer’s team showed them around the inside of the M-SHORAD and the outside of the long-utilized Avenger Air Defense System.

For the past 20 years, National Guard and active-duty Soldiers have worked together in Iraq and Afghanistan and on various training and operational missions around the world. Professional development opportunities like this are essential to maintain interoperability between active and reserve units.

“It’s only through having meetings like this, having engagements, and having these shared collaborative experiences that we can truly become the most effective force working together,” Archer said.