Aviation brigade in South Korea to expand training
Stars and Stripes September 4, 2010
PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — With lessons learned during three combat tours in Iraq, the new commander of the Army’s aviation brigade in Korea plans to have his aviators conduct more training with ground combat troops and add tactical complexities.
Col. James T. Barker, who took command this summer of 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, said he could not live with himself if he lost soldiers in combat and then had to “second-guess whether or not I did everything I should have or could have done to bring them home.”
The brigade, headquartered at Camp Humphreys, is part of the 2nd Infantry Division and flies mainly Apache attack helicopters and Black Hawk utility and Chinook cargo helicopters.
Barker said he hopes to combine already robust aviation training with more tactical interaction involving the division’s ground combat units — something they’d likely have to do a lot of in wartime.
In October, the brigade will turn an otherwise routine, semi-annual Apache helicopter gunnery drill into a richer training experience for both the Apache unit and some of the division’s armor and mechanized infantry units, Barker said.
Normally, for example, Apache crews get their gunnery drills radioed from a control tower by a senior aviator reading directions from a script. But with the enhanced training, they will have ground combat soldiers relaying targeting information to the Apache crews, a scenario that mirrors how Apache units work in actual combat.
“It challenges the armor and the infantrymen on the ground to understand the process of calling for and even adjusting" helicopter fire support, he said. “And it adds a little more friction and realism to the air crew, as they’re not dealing with a senior aviator who’s merely reading a script from a controlled environment.”
Barker said his units also will train more with field artillery units, with helicopters hauling the heavy guns and ammunition from one place to another.
His brigade’s mechanics, clerks and other support troops won’t be left out. They’ll get combat training in the form of exercises in which they practice fending off attacks on their convoys.
“You can never rest with the status quo,” Barker said, whose first Iraq deployment was in Operation Desert Storm in 1991. “You always have to continue to push your capabilities further and further every day. … There is no finish line when it comes to preparing for combat.”