Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Oregon National Guard Forward Observers train with Seals & Air Force

Story by Spc. Cory Grogan

SALEM, Ore. -- A cavalry fire support team lands in a remote area on a Black Hawk helicopter and quickly moves for cover on a hill overlooking their target. Communication is set up swiftly to get the exact location of the team's objective. The crew finds the coordinates of the target and calls an A-10 Warthog fighter jet which eventually swoops in precisely striking its mark.

Forward observers have the vital job of calling in targets for mortars, field artillery and provide eyes-on information for rotary and fixed aircraft, fire support officer Capt. Chad Knowles said.

The FIST team from 1st Squadron, 82nd Cavalry Regiment of the Oregon National Guard's 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team put these combat skills to work in a training event at Gowen Field, Idaho, July 21. A realistic scenario including Navy SEALs and Air Force personnel tested the skills these National Guard soldiers practice during drill throughout the year.

The training exercise was part of mandatory recertification for the Navy SEAL Joint Terminal Attack Controller team members who the Oregon Guard members trained with, a west coast Navy SEAL said during the field training exercise.

"We rely on them to give information about what we can't see—without them we can't drop," one SEAL said about the importance of forward observers. "These guys did a good job."

Knowles said it was great preparation because his team got realistic training working with other services—seeing what actually happens when they do their job the right way.

"This was an incredible moral builder," he said. "It was great to see the newer enlisted soldiers absorbing knowledge and learning from the more experienced soldiers and Navy SEAL experts."

Spc. Michael Hudson, a signal communication support and maintenance member on the team, was visibly excited after seeing planes hit their targets.

"It all came together," he said. "Air Force, SEALs and us working together to hit the target is really motivating."

For members of the FIST, the event was a perfect culmination to class work they have done all year.

"It's great getting out in the field to call in targets and see the result of our training," Forward Observer Brady Hammer said.

The 1/82 Cavalry forward observers, like the rest of the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, returned from an Iraq deployment in spring 2010 and are at the beginning of a new deployment cycle to ensure they are ready when called upon next.

"These guys are doing a great job for it being this early in our training set," said Knowles.

The training stands as an example of why the over 6,600 Oregon National Guard soldiers and airmen who have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11 have been able to perform at the highest level when called upon to defend and support both State and Nation.

An Oregon National Guard soldier watches an A-10 Warthog with a handheld rangefinder as it prepares to engage a target after being called for fire support during a joint service training exercise with Air Force, Navy SEALs, and a Fire Support Team from 1st Squadron, 82nd Cavalry Regiment out of Bend, Ore., July 20, at Gowen Field, Idaho.


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