Rapid artillery exercise successful for Kentucky unit in Europe

By Staff Sgt. Benjamin Crane, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

A Soldier from Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 623rd Field Artillery prepares to load his High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) truck into the back of the C-17 Globemaster from the 437th Airlift Wing at an airfield in Powidz, Poland, June 12, 2018. Soldiers with the 1/623rd were flown into Lithuania for a rapid air insertion exercise during Saber Strike 18, a multi-national operation between U.S. and NATO forces. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Crane)

Click here for video of the mission.

RUKLA, Lithuania –Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 623rd Field Artillery’s Alpha and Bravo Batteries were flown to from Poland to Lithuania for a rapid air insertion exercise with their High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) during Saber Strike 18, June 12.

The mission was to showcase the unit’s ability to deploy their powerful rocket system to any location necessary to make a rapid insertion.

Two HIMARS trucks were loaded into a C-17 Globemaster from the 437th Airlift Wing out of Charleston, South Carolina, two at a time, and flown from Powidz, Poland to Rukla, Lithuania. Once on the ground, the batteries performed dry fire missions to test their ability to communicate and position themselves to fire on a target and move out of harms way.

“We saw an opportunity with the massive amounts of Air Force support that this exercise had to take advantage of. The challenge was finding the right people to see how important this mission was to do,” said Maj. Steve Mattingly, commander of the 1/623rd.

Click here for more photos.

Being able to show a small unit in the National Guard could send a platform like this and land it in any airfield to strike an enemy’s area of operations was a very big message to be sent Mattingly said.

“It’s very strategic and significant” said Brig. Gen. Scott A. Campbell, Kentucky Army National Guard assistant adjutant general who paid the 1/623rd a visit during the exercise. “It’s a powerful message we are sending to our adversaries.”

This training opportunity took the help of other military branches willing and able to participate, such as the 437th Airlift Wing.

“The stars aligned where all the commanders asked to be involved saw that helping in this mission would be beneficial to all parties and allowed the units to work hand in hand in the spirit of the exercise,” added Mattingly.

This training also gave the Soldiers involved real life experience of what it takes to get placed right in the middle of the battle. Also, the experience of riding in a C-17 sitting right next to their 35,0000 pound vehicle as the very large aircraft takes off in what could be likened to any roller coaster at an amusement park.

“It is a good opportunity to load their equipment in one country and land in another country and shoot a mission,” said Mattingly.

Saber Strike was a Multi-National U.S. Army-Europe led exercise where this cooperative training event is designed to enhance readiness and interoperability with allies and region partners. The enhanced forward presence battle groups that took part in Saber Strike were stationed in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. It was the first time the 1/623rd had deployed all their equipment overseas since Operation Desert Storm.