‘Broncos’ Hold Mile High Training Exercise at Pohakuloa Training Area

Maneuver elements of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, found invaluable support from mortar, artillery and helicopter gunships during a fire support coordination exercise (FCX), here, June 24-26.

A Soldier assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, scans his sector with an M240B machine as part of a maneuver element during a fires coordination exercise (FCX) lane at the Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, on June 25, 2017. The battalions of 3rd BCT went through a series of realistic combat lanes during the three daylong FCX. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division)

The maneuvers were held on the big island of Hawaii at the more than mile high plateau between Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea and the Hualalai volcanic mountains.

The purpose of the FCX is to provide realistic training, which includes maximum flexibility during the company-level maneuvers.

Second Lt. Victor Perez, a native of Snyder, Okla., and a fire support officer assigned to 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd BCT, said the FCX “allows us to practice with our maneuver element and also be able to de-conflict measures such as coordination and indirect fires.”

Perez said the training with close air support assets such as the AH-64 Apache helicopter provides excellent planning to de-conflict the use of air and indirect fire assets.

“We get down here to really train and focus on for when the next war that happens,” he said. “It’s not exactly being overseas, but allows us to get really good training out here.”

Soldiers assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, act as a maneuver element during a fires coordination exercise (FCX) lane at the Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, on June 25, 2017. The battalions of 3rd BCT went through a series of realistic combat lanes during the three daylong FCX. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division)

Capt. Trent Sutterfield, a native of Indianapolis, Ind., and commander of Blackfoot Troop, 3-4th Cav. Regt., said it was a great experience for his troops on PTA.

“It’s a chance to not only work with your platoon leaders, which you work with quite a bit, but that external audience such as your FSO, your fire support coordination piece with the artillery and mortars,” Sutterfield said.

He stated the ranges were doable on the island of Oahu, but they’re a great many constraints for training on the highly population island.

“This allows us to build again not just shoot our maneuver elements or normal direct fire systems such as the M2 machine gun and Mark 19 grenade launcher, but also emphasis our fires capabilities and air platforms,” he said. “We have the land and the ability without constricting training of other units on Schofield.”

Spc. William Holt, indirect fire infantrymen, assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, applies camouflage face paint prior to the start of a fires coordination exercise (FCX) lane at the Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, on June 25, 2017. The Soldiers provided indirect fire support during near pitch-black conditions to maneuver elements during the FCX. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division)

The company-level leadership involved their FSOs during their operational planning.

“We involved them in our planning process, and directly through our fire support officer and fire support NCO,” he said. “They develop the fires plan as we conduct the maneuvers piece, and build that on top in support of us.”

Spc. Matthew Blankenship, a native of Sparta, N.C., and a fire support specialist assigned to 3-4th Cav. Regt., worked directly with the maneuver elements on the simulated battlefield.

Blankenship stated the tight constraints on the ranges on Oahu make it difficult for the M777 150 mm howitzer to fire with full affect during training.

“There’s a lot of wide open places so we can use some of our larger caliber weapon systems,” he said. “You can’t really fire that well Schofield because there isn’t enough range to. So when we come to PTA, we get to actually use the larger caliber weapons in the way it was designed to be used.”

With his second rotation at PTA, Blankenship’s views on the PTA ranges were highly positive.

“I never imagined Hawaii being like this,” he said. “It’s sort of a desert climate, and it’s really different. It’s a really good place to train.”

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