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Photo by Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson, 41st Fires Bde. PAO
FORT HOOD, Texas - While the sun set in the west, the Wolfpack Soldiers rose in the north. The three teams were equipped with night vision goggles and ready to be inserted into an enemy area by CH-47 Chinook helicopters. Once the helicopters touched the ground, the Soldiers unloaded their special cargo along with three HMMWVs and operation Tracker Strike commenced.
The Soldiers with Battery A, 26th Field Artillery Regiment (Target Acquisition Battery), 41st Fires Brigade, air assaulted into the dark of the night to secure an area, protect their cargo, find their current grid location and convoy back to friendly territory during a joint-service training mission on Fort Hood, Texas, Jan. 5.
The TAB Soldiers participated in the 171st Aviation Battalion with the Georgia National Guard mission readiness exercise to help the unit prepare for its upcoming deployment.
“Through connections at Division West, we found out about the 171st Aviation Battalion MRX and we assisted them as the offensive force,” said Capt. Dashiell Ballarta, Pflugerville, Texas native, commander for the Bat. A, 26th FA Regt. (TAB), 41st Fires Bde. “Operation Tracker Strike had dual purpose. First, the aviation battalion was able to insert a small team into position according to their mission plan. Second, we got experience moving internal loads in CH-47s, traveling across longer distances, conducting night mounted land navigation and small convoy operations.”
As the Chinook took off, Team A and C secured the perimeter and point man, Sgt. Luis Garcia, Oakland, Calif. native, supply sergeant for Bat. A, 26th FA Regt., made quick work of locating Wolfpack’s current location.
“I’m fortunate to be in a unit that prides itself with good training,” said Garcia. “I’m even comfortable using the night vision goggles because a lot of units rarely do night training.”
Once Garcia had his grid coordinates he was able to plot a convoy route back home.
“Nighttime brings a whole new perspective to land navigation,” said Garcia. “Land navigation is difficult with the sun up, I’m just glad that this isn’t my first training at night. It takes time working under limited visibility.”
“It’s pretty paramount that every unit conducts night training; refining our ability to own the night using special thermal equipment or night vision goggles that we have at our disposal to extend our operational and tactical abilities,” Ballarta.
Before being the last half of their training, the Wolfpack Soldiers conducted a quick after action review to discuss the good and bad from the training.
“It’s very important to train at all hours of the day, you never know when or at what time a situation calls you to duty,” said Spc. Blake Essex, Carmel, Ind. native, radar repairman for the Bat. A, 26th FA Regt., 41st Fires Bde. “So it’s important to always be prepared. Unfortunately, war doesn’t live on a time table.”
The TAB Soldiers safely completes another training mission that also further prepares them for their non-firing radar certification exercise where they will operate, maintain, and employ a radar in a contingency operation in support of the 41st Fires Bde., Jan. 10-14.