LITTLE FALLS, Minn. --
The 146th Air Support Operations Squadron (146th ASOS), Oklahoma Air National Guard, joined their Army partners from the Minnesota Army National Guard Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division (1/34th ABCT) for a command post exercise in Little Falls, Minnesota, March 8-9, 2019.
The 19-05 Command Post Exercise (19-05 CPX) was a 2-day cyber-based exercise that was conducted by the 1/34th ABCT to train on the brigade’s battle drills before a graded warfighter exercise in May. This trial run gave the staff a chance to work out any issues while they ran through their functions, planning processes and battle drills, as well as learn how to incorporate the U.S. Air Force fire support offered by the ASOS.
“We’re built to be multi-domain and joint operators,” said Col. Timothy Kemp, 1/34th ABCT commander. “We’re not a complete armored brigade combat team without the Air Force conducting operations with us.”
The 146th ASOS brought two members to act as liaisons for the Army to help them integrate Air Force capabilities into the air space above the Army commander’s scheme of maneuver. This partnership for the Oklahoma ASOS and Minnesota ABCT is very new — the 146th has worked with the 1/34th ABCT twice in person, in addition to some planning meetings over the past year. These training events allow both partners the opportunity to understand how the other works, as well as provide benefits to both branches as they train.
“Whenever we conduct close air support training, we simulate Army staff functions,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Emerson, the 146th ASOS director of operations. “Now we actually have that full Army staff to work and plan with.”
Likewise, Kemp said the Air Force helps the Army by predicting what air support they will need and when they will need it during the exercise, which helps the Army to more easily coordinate joint fire at a target on the virtual battlefield.
“All joint fire on a battlefield between the Army and Air Force has to be integrated into a plan and constantly adjusted to the changes of our opponents,” Kemp said. “We have to integrate smoothly to be effective in battle.”
For this exercise, the 1/34th ABCT had to develop a battle plan based on information that they received from a higher command and a lower command. Civilian contractors acted as the lower command and the enemy during the battle scenario, and the higher command was formed by members from Joint Force Headquarters (JFHQ) Minnesota. All of the information coming from both of those commands would be fed to the brigade through computers, which simulated a real deployed environment where the lower and higher echelons might be in other locations during a battle in the real world.
“The biggest challenge is building a common operating picture,” said Lt. Col. Josh Simer, acting division operations officer for the exercise and assistant operations officer at JFHQ Minnesota.
The brigade has to act as a middleman between the higher command and the lower command, Simer said. Even though the exercise was run on computers, the information coming from these commands changes the brigade’s battle plan as rapidly as it would change in real life. This tandem operation is crucial for the ABCT and the ASOS as they move on to future training exercises.
“As we work together, we will continue to refine our processes and will be better prepared to conduct joint operations at the Warfighter in May and National Training Center next year,” said Emerson.