CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait — As the sun rises at Landing Zone Gerber, it is greeted by Soldiers from the Kuwait Land Forces and deployed U.S. Army forces from the Wisconsin Army National Guard as they train together to breach and clear a make-shift town by both ground and air during exercise Desert Wall in Udari, Kuwait, Oct. 5.
Soldiers of the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 147th Assault Helicopter Regiment — presently deployed to the region as part of Task Force Wraith under the 29th Combat Aviation Brigade — assisted throughout the combined ground and air assault training, including the culminating exercise involving the Kuwaiti Land Forces and Soldiers from 2nd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
The partnered forces trained together to sharpen their skills prior to the joint exercise. In Desert Wall, Task Force Wraith used two UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters to conduct the air assault for the U.S. and Kuwaiti ground forces. Such training not only prepares the troops for their exercise, it prepares them for the vast number of contingencies they face every day in a dynamic deployed environment like the Middle East.
Training included both cold load, when the helicopter is turned off, and hot load training, where the helicopter’s rotary blades are spinning.
Additional familiarization training required passengers to safely demonstrate proper boarding procedures, carrying weapons on aircraft and how to properly egress the helicopter based on the wind and crew chief hand signals.
“This was my first time getting on a helicopter,” said Mohamad Al Hashal, a vehicle driver with the Kuwait Land Forces. “It wasn’t too hard to figure out.”
The crew chiefs from Task Force Wraith were impressed with how quickly the trainees caught on to entering and egressing the helicopter.
“The Kuwaiti soldiers did an excellent job,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Aaron Williams, air mission commander from 1-147th Assault Helicopter Battalion. “They caught on fast and met the standards quickly.”
The Kuwait Soldiers appeared to enjoy the training as well.
“We enjoy working with the American Soldiers,” said two of the Soldiers with the Kuwait Land Forces. “They take their time, they learn our culture and they work with us.”
They ran several iterations cold loading and then completed hot load training, during which they were flown around and dropped off to provide an additional layer of redundancy for safety.
Following the hot and cold load training, the partnered forces began working with the 3-1 Cav. to learn the formations and maneuvers needed once they were on ground so they could practice how to run the ground assault on the objective.
“This exercise increases the interoperability between U.S. and Kuwaiti forces here,” said Capt. Tim Davis, Bravo Company commander, 2-7 Cav.
“Not only is it good training for them [Kuwait Army Soldiers],” said Capt. Ross Mitchell, 3rd ABCT aviation officer. “It’s also good training for my guys because we don’t get to do this every day.”
On the final day of exercise Desert Wall the Kuwait Land Forces worked with their U.S. Army counterparts to successfully breach and clear the buildings and secure the objective.
“This was a successful mission,” Mitchell said. “The Kuwaiti soldiers hit their time markers, kept their focus and achieved the objective set before them.”
The Wisconsin National Guard continues to play an active role in global security operations, fulfilling its role as primary combat reserve of the Army and Air Force. Soldiers of the West Bend-based 248th Aviation Support Battalion deployed to the Middle East Sept. 30. Approximately 270 Airmen from the 115th Fighter Wing deployed to Korea in August, while 110 Airmen from the 128th Air Control Squadron deployed to Southwest Asia in May, and more than 70 Airmen from the 128th Air Refueling Wing in Milwaukee are deploying worldwide to support global security operations. Another 150 Soldiers from the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation deployed to Kuwait last spring, and 35 Soldiers from the West Bend-based Company C, 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation deployed to Afghanistan last winter.
Meanwhile, the Wisconsin National Guard has been busy fulfilling the other half of its dual-mission as the nation’s first military responder in times of emergency. Approximately 650 Wisconsin National Guard troops recently returned from Florida where they provided humanitarian relief, security and traffic control support to communities in the wake of Hurricane Irma. In addition, Airmen from the 128th Air Refueling Wing, 115th Fighter Wing and Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center deployed to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricane Maria this fall.