By Dani Johnson
The writer is assigned to United States Army Garrison Ansbach in Germany’s southern state of Bavaria. This feature first appeared on U.S. Defense News on May 9. While the global media is focused on the impact of the disastrous impact of the corona virus on the U.S. and elsewhere around the world, the American Air Defense Artillery Battalion is maintaining “combat proficiency”.
ANSBACH, Germany (IDN) – With the mission of providing short-range air defense, the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, or 5-4 ADAR, continues to train to maintain combat proficiency on Shipton Kaserne, Ansbach, Germany, during the COVID-19 pandemic. [Shipton Konzerne is a small United States Army post outside of Ansbach, Germany.]
To operate an Avenger, a self-propelled short-range air defense missile system, the assigned air and missile defense crew members must maintain a Table 8 certification.
Training for Avenger crew members is divided into 10 tables, or steps. Army Lt. Col. Todd Daniels, the commander of 5-4 ADAR, explained that the tables are organized in a tiered system, with each table progressively more challenging and complex than the previous one. Soldiers must pass each table until they reach Table 8, which certifies them as a team able to employ their Avenger in combat.
”We are replicating everything the crews would do on a live-fire range, minus them actually firing live rounds,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Richardson, the battalion master gunner. ”According to our gunnery training circular, every table that these crews had to do prior to going to a live fire are being accomplished in this [COVID-19] environment right now.”
Richardson said the only challenge to social distancing is when the crews have to pass the Stinger missiles to each other when loading the Avenger. This challenge has changed the way some master gunners train.
”I can’t get in there with my hands and show them,” Rchardson said. ”I can voice it and have them replicate what I’m telling them.”
When it comes to training, creating a sense of realism can be the biggest challenge.
”I get it. [The Avenger tabletop trainer is] kind of like a video game, so the level of urgency might not be there,” said Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Long, the Charlie Battery master gunner. ”What we did was design new scenarios on the tabletop trainers to make it a little more difficult, a little more realistic, so these guys can get some quality training, and it’s not a ‘check the block’ thing.”
Improving crew proficiency while maintaining combat power is the battalion’s ultimate goal despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
”It’s still getting us spun up on the stuff that we need to know, and we get a lot more time to work on the [tabletop trainer],” said Army Sgt. Emmanuel Hopkins, an air and missile defense crew member with Charlie Battery. ”So once we get out on a real Avenger system, it’s pretty much the same thing, and we know exactly what to do. It’s great practice especially for the new guys just getting hands on. Mistakes can be made now [before a live fire].”
Daniels said he is extremely proud of how the units are continuing to train in this new environment.
”They continually find new and creative ways to not only maintain their units’ readiness, but actually improve it,” he said. ”While our opportunities for collective training with other units were delayed due to COVID-19, we maximized the time to improve our soldiers’ lethality at the individual and crew level while minimizing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 through employment of appropriate force health protection measures.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 09 May 2020]
Photo: An air and missile defense crew member loads a Stinger missile onto an Avenger short-range air defense missile system on Shipton Kaserne, Ansbach, Germany, during training, April 30, 2020. Credit: Dani Johnson, U.S. Army
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