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Patriot missile battalion trains at Fort Riley

By Andy Massanet | 1ST INF. DIV. POST | October 06, 2017

    The 4th Battalion, 3rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade, a Patriot air defense battalion from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, conducted an Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise at Fort Riley during the final two weeks in September.

     “It was the first time Fort Riley was able to support the training of an Air Defense Artillery unit since the 1st Infantry Division returned from Germany in 2006,” said Bill Raymann, chief of training, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security. “We look forward to supporting more of these types of events in the future.”

     Called Archer Vengeance, the exercise and the support Fort Riley provided enabled 4th Bn., 3rd ADA Regt., to remain a vital asset in the nation’s defense and will soon have a role in the Global Response Force mission, said Lt. Col. Tim Woodruff, battalion commander.

    “We are an expeditionary unit,” Woodruff said. “We support COCOM (combatant commander) and Joint Force Commanders with air and theater ballistic missile defense. So, the primary goal of Archer Vengeance is to prepare us for those expeditionary operations.”

     An expeditionary unit must be able to fight in foreign countries and away from established bases and normal logistical support. That means the 31st ADA Brigade is organized to be self-sufficient in the field, Woodruff said.

     The unit is comprised of four Patriot missile batteries and a host of support elements, including a headquarters and headquarters battery and an organic maintenance company, said Maj. Elise Fitch, battalion operations officer. When deployed, it will also have communications and medical support.

     Exercising that self-sufficiency was part of the lure of Fort Riley, Woodruff said.

     “It’s a wonderful training environment,” he said. “It allowed us to pick up and move off Fort Sill with a reasonable logistical challenge.”

    The only thing the battalion could not do was fire a live interceptor, something that can only be done at either Fort Bliss, Texas, or White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, Woodruff said.

     The 4th Bn., 3rd ADA Regt., Patriot systems were enhanced using Fort Riley’s complex fiber optic system.

     “The Network Enterprise Center was able to tie in Soldiers training in the field at Fort Riley into an even larger exercise at Fort Sill,” Raymann said.

     Woodruff pointed out the fiber optic cables running from the command post connected him with the NEC. As it is an expeditionary brigade, when deployed, Woodruff said the units of the 31st ADA Bde., including 4th Bn, 3rd ADA Regt., have communications capability to mitigate the need for landline and fiber optic systems and can accomplish the battlefield mission. Fort Riley has helped alleviate that need and allowed the battalion to focus on other training requirements.

    “The capability here has, by and large, enabled us to do what we need to do,” Woodruff said. “It makes it easier for us. Our higher headquarters remained at Fort Sill, so they will be digitally linked into us and I will be briefing my brigade commander via our digital systems. That’s the marvel of the digital age: I don’t have to be collocated with my commander to communicate.”

       As for Fort Riley support, DPTMS was “all in” in its support of this Patriot battalion, Raymann said.

     “The Logistics Readiness Center provided railhead and ammunition support, the Network Enterprise Center was able to tie in Soldiers training in the field at Fort

      Riley into Fort Sill, the Directorate of Emergency Services provided support for their convoy operations and DPTMS provided billeting space at both Camp Funston and the Douthit Gunnery Complex along with unrestricted access to the training area, assisted with access to Fort Riley’s ranges, Camp Funston and the Douthit cantonment.”

     A feature of Archer Vengeance was that it allowed Soldiers “to rehearse moving from their home station by rail and convoy, and then the ability to deploy to the field just as if they were called upon in a real world contingency,” Raymann said.

      According to the www.army.mil website, the mission of Patriot units is to provide defense of critical assets and maneuver forces belonging to the corps and to echelons above corps against aircraft, cruise missiles and tactical ballistic missiles.

     “The Air Defense Artillery branch is one of the smallest in the Army,” Woodruff said. “However, we provide a flexible, adaptable, scalable ADA force that can defeat the full range of threats across the spectrum.”

      Patriot battalions defend what Woodruff called the lowest tier above the battlefield. The air space above the battlefield is divided into tiers that extend upward through the atmosphere, he explained, each overlapping the other. The unit’s mission is to focus on threats in the lowest tier.

      One of the four batteries training in the Archer Vengeance exercise was Battery C, commanded by Capt. Michael McEunn, Battery C, 4th Bn, 3rd ADA Regt., commander. He said the batteries will employ military occupational specialties that include 14T, Patriot Launching Station Enhanced Operator and Maintainer; 14E, Patriot Fire Control Enhanced Operator and Maintainer; and 14H, Air Defense Enhanced Early Warning System Operator.

       “At this time we are short of 14-Hs,” McEunn said. “So we are having to cross train some of our 14-Ts to help us out in that area and they are doing an outstanding job.”

     Each battery can bring to bear two types of missiles, Woodruff said. One is a PAC-2 weapon that uses a proximity fuse which destroys a threat by detonating near the target. The other is a PAC-3 weapon that is “hit to kill,” Woodruff said.

      When it’s all said and done, for Sgt. Maj. Aaron Drake, the operations senior noncommissioned officer for 4th Bn, 3rd ADA Regt., everything is in place for his Soldiers to win the fight.

      “I have no concerns whatsoever,” Drake said. “The processes have been put in place and they will lead to our overall success.”