Story and photos by Sgt. Courtney E. Marulli
4th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
Warriors of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, conducted Operation Gunsmoke in order to train key leaders at the squad, platoon and company level on the coordination and synchronization of close-supporting fires, including close-air support, close-combat attack, cannon artillery and mortars.
The fire support coordination exercise ran Feb. 23-Feb. 27 and was successful, according to Maj. Eric K. Dunahee, the brigade fire support officer for 4th BCT, 4th ID, and range officer in charge for the exercise.
Dunahee said this was a first for many people when it came to coordinating available fire support. He said they planned well and knew how they wanted to defend their forward operating base, attack certain targets and react to different situations.
The Soldiers used live rounds, he said, except for the close-combat attack, which was notational but gave key leaders a chance to interact with OH-58D Kiowa Warrior aviators from 1st Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, who provided support for the exercise.
“It’s painting a picture of the battlefield and knowing what you have available,” he said.
Dunahee said the exercise was also designed to provide stress as there were a lot of variable targets the leaders had to react to.
The training at the company level allowed commanders to process information gathered from their platoon and squad elements, Dunahee said. Since the commanders aren’t out there seeing it firsthand, they had to rely solely on the information provided to them from the three different battle positions, he said.
Leaders also learned to communicate with aviators.
“Talking to pilots is something they normally don’t get to do,” he said, and the exercise allowed them to learn what to expect when close-combat attack aviation is on station.
The Warriors were able to work with aviation assets when the brigade conducted its rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center in January at Fort Polk, La., and Dunahee said Operation Gunsmoke provided another training opportunity.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 John L. Blanton, the brigade aviation tactical operations officer and range safety officer for the exercise, said the exercise went well.
“It was a very well organized (forward operating base)-defense exercise to train up junior commanders in coordinating the use of all the various assets they will have at their disposal when fighting in Afghanistan,” he said.
The Warrior Brigade is set to deploy to Afghanistan this spring.