Service members from the 1st Battalion, 120th Field Artillery Regiment, Wisconsin Army National Guard participated in a cold weather joint training exercise, at Camp Grayling, Mich.
“Our mission is to integrate fires into a joint situation where we are supporting other services,” said U.S. Army Capt. Michael Lindow, commander, C Battery, 1st Battalion, 120th Field Artillery Regiment, Wisconsin Army National Guard. “This training is to get into the integrated joint-fires mindset and also get our Soldiers into that operating scenario.”
The unit usually conducts training within its own battalion or brigade so operating outside its own command was a new experience. Winter Strike prepares Soldiers for missions outside the scope of the U.S. Army.
“Typically our training is consolidated and we don’t operate outside of the Army,” said Lindow. “This exercise will get our Soldiers exposed to working in a joint operating environment.”
During the joint exercise, the unit was responsible for communicating with and relying on other services to get rounds down range and on point. Throughout this synchronized dance, a forward observer (FO) is in constant communication with field artillery units to assist with proper coordination of targets.
“We will get the target identified from an FO,” said Lindow. “They will send us the targeting data in order for us to get rounds where they need to be.”
Others acknowledged learning from working with sister service FOs.
“Normally we work with our own FOs, so this time we are working with joint forces,” said U.S. Army Spc. Ryan Walling, C Battery, 1-120th FA Regt., Wisconsin Army National Guard. “It’s a lot different communicating with FOs from a different joint force – it’s is a great experience.”
Along with a new communication mindset, Winter Strike gives Soldiers a bigger perspective of joint maneuvers.
“Just seeing how it all comes together, especially from the communications standpoint with other services [is important],” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael LeDoux, C Battery, 1-120th FA Regt., Wisconsin Army National Guard. “It brings in a different aspect and allows for me to see the big picture of joint operations.”
Camp Grayling includes 147,000 acres of ground maneuver space and is the largest military training airspace east of the Mississippi, which is perfect for large-scale exercises. Northern Strike, the largest reserve-component Department of Defense exercise, continues to expand and Winter Strike is proof. The winter exercise is the first expansion of Northern Strike.
With Michigan temperatures ideal for cold weather training, Soldiers will be able to test the M777A2 155mm howitzer, a complex piece of equipment, in a colder climate that offered its own challenges.
“Making sure the howitzer system is able to hold the pressures in the cold will be challenging,” said LeDoux. “This climate is good to really test our equipment and to see the speed of getting the rounds in and out of the tube.”
The weather at the Michigan National Guard base has not disappointed either.
“Since we’ve been here, we have already experienced snow, sleet, and freezing rain,” said Walling. “We normally work in hot temperatures, humidity, and rain, so learning how to train in different temperatures and different climates has been beneficial.”
Others echoed the colder climate as added value.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever shot in the wintertime,” said Lindow. “We’ve shot during cold days in the spring and fall in Wisconsin, but nothing like this.”