The 16th Combat Aviation Brigade passed its first major training milestone with the completion of an aerial gunnery exercise at Yakima Training Center from Oct. 7 to Nov. 8.
Aerial gunnery is an annual requirement designed to qualify helicopter crews on the fundamental skills required to identify and engage targets. Each crew was evaluated as it engaged various ground targets with .50-caliber machine gun rounds and Hellfire missiles. Soldiers worked together to engage targets while hovering, landing and flying. Units qualified from a variety of airframes, including the OH-58D Kiowa, UH-60 Blackhawk and the AH-64D Apache helicopters.
We trained to qualify on our primary weapons systems, which will allow us collectively to pursue more advanced training, said operations officer Capt. Matthew Ford, 16th CAB assistant. This training also will allow us to support other neighboring units and their training requirements, and ultimately to deploy to combat theater and fight to win.
Each of the brigades subordinate battalions qualified on its individual aircraft weapons systems in preparation for the upcoming Collective Crew Training, scheduled to begin in late November at YTC. CCT is designed to simulate realistic combat scenarios, which will use all the units airframes to uniquely support a single objective. Both the aerial gunnery and CCT are conducted to prepare 16th CAB for training rotations scheduled in 2013 at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif.
Working in multifunctional task forces helps pilots and crews get familiar with the unique capabilities of each airframe. Different types of aircraft flying in support of each other allows unit commanders to take advantage of their strengths. Working together highlights their unique, airframe-specific capabilities.
Collectively, we have some challenges we will face when adding the various aircraft together, said Lt. Col. Bryan Hoff, 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment commander. As we move forward, we are going to make sure we are deliberate, safe and well-thought-out before we proceed forward.
The 46th Aviation Support Battalion played a crucial role by providing retraining capabilities, dining facilities, medical support and forward arming and refueling point personnel.
The biggest lessons weve learned (are) how to integrate the support efforts of multiple (military occupational specialties) so that we can plug and play into a variety of support scenarios, said Lt. Col. Mark Sisco, the 46th ASB commander.
The (gunnery) exercises (at YTC) have given us a higher degree of support flexibility, he said.
Aerial gunnery is the starting point for several future training exercises the 16th CAB will conduct as it prepares to become fully mission-capable and ready for worldwide deployment.