A reason to stay in uniform

Kentucky infantrymen conduct largest air assault exercise in six years

By Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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Spc. Robert Satterfield with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry exits a landing zone during an air assault exercise at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Butlerville, Ind., July 26, 2015. From the landing zone, the 1/149th was tasked with assaulting and securing a building complex during the multi-day mission, the largest training exercise for the battalion in six years. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

BUTLERVILLE, Ind. — In terms of basic Soldier skills, the infantry is arguably the hardest training unit in the Kentucky Guard. But it’s not everyday Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry get to put all that training into a full-spectrum exercise. As a culminating event to this year’s two-week annual training for the unit, the Mountain Warriors conducted a multi-day air assault mission at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Ind., July 24-27.

“Stuff like this is phenomenal, it’s great training,” said Spc. David Woodford with Alpha Company, 1/149th. “This kind of training will keep me in uniform.”

Soldiers with Alpha and Bravo Co., 1/149th loaded their gear and flew by UH-60 Blackhawks to the landing zone at Muscatatuck, compliments of the U.S. Army Reserves’ 11th Theater Aviation Command out of Fort Knox, Ky. Each Soldier carried their weapon and everything they needed for the three-day mission on their backs. Many of the Guardsmen flew on their first helicopter ride. And at the end of it, they had to get themselves, their gear and their fellow Soldiers out of the aircraft as quickly and as organized as possible.

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Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry conduct an air assault exercise at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Butlerville, Ind., July 26, 2015. Aviators from the 11th Theater Aviation Command at Fort Knox, Ky., provided eight UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters to transport the infantrymen to the training site. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

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From the landing zone, the 1/149th was tasked with assaulting and securing a building complex occupied by members of Charlie Company, simulating an opposition forces. The three companies of infantrymen then had to hold their position and establish relations with locals.

In advance of the air assault, a small platoon of scouts paved the way for the main body attack. For those scouts, the mission was a couple days longer as they infiltrated the area two days prior to the battalion’s arrival. They were the eyes and ears of the attack. A job they said they wouldn’t trade for any other in the battalion.

“This is as high as you can get as far as training value,” said Staff Sgt. Nicholas Combs with Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 1/149th. “No one here would want any other job during this training. When this mission is all said and done, only good stories will come out of it.”

From boarding and egressing a helicopter, moving as a fire team and even kicking in doors, the Mountain Warriors checked off a number of mission essential tasks they must train for each year.  Lt. Col. Joseph Lear, commander of the 1/149th said the AT provided an excellent chance for each section of the battalion to not only train, but to put their job specialities to the test.

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Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry stack on a wall during a training exercise at the Muscatatuck Urban training Center in Butlerville, Ind., July 26, 2015. The unit conducted an air assault mission to seize a building complex and hold their position against a simulated enemy force. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

“Conducting an air assault is one of our primary tasks,” said Lear. “This enabled us to do something we haven’t done since 2009 as a battalion. It’s a tremendous training multiplier for us, to be able to do that kind of mission at that scale, we are grateful to have the opportunity.”

Members of Delta Company provided the ground assault and convoyed by Humvees to the site. In reserve was the 1149th Forward Support Company, whose job is to ensure the infantry can do their job. Chief Warrant Officer Melissa Propes with the 1149th said the annual training was also an invaluable training opportunity for her Soldiers as well.

“I love seeing these Soldiers get experience in what they do, and they got to do that here. Not only did they get good training, it made a difference to the infantry. And that is absolutely what the 1149th FSC is supposed to do,” she said. “Everybody from the infantryman to the mess section, to distro to maintenance, everybody has an essential piece of the puzzle, or they wouldn’t be here. And we’re just happy to contribute.”

Leading up to the assault mission, Soldiers of the unit trained in a variety of squad and platoon-sized drills at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, to hone their skills and prepare for the final mission.

Pvt. Scottie Pace is a cook with the 1149th FSC and attended his first annual training.

“When I first enlisted, I had no idea what to expect on an AT,” he said. “Now, I feel like knowing that I can do my job and help the unit is a great thing to prepare me for future training and makes me a better Soldier.”

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Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry advance across a road during a training exercise at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Butlerville, Ind., July 26, 2015. The exercise was the culminating event of the unit’s two-week annual training period. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

More than 550 Soldiers of the battalion were on hand for the training period. Platoon leaders and company commanders agreed their Soldiers greatly benefitted from the unique training and the boost in morale.

“There’s nothing like training in the field,” said Spc. Joseph Hill from Alpha Co. “You’re really able to do your job and refresh your skills. It’s hard to find a bad part of this AT.”

Battalion leadership were pleased with the effort put forth by their Soldiers and the chance to put them in the field and participants and witnesses to the unique energy of the infantry.

“This type of training is also why people enlist,” said Lear. “They don’t join to stand a drill hall and get briefs. These troops will talk about this air assault for years.”

“That’s how this type of training leads to retention, which leads to strength, which leads to funding, which leads to more quality training. That’s the impact this has on this battalion.”