— Ed. Note: We are publishing this feature story from the U.S. Department of Defense because it illustrates the Army’s use of the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site east of Trinidad.
COLORADO SPRINGS — To effectively shoot, move and communicate are among the core fundamentals of “soldiering.”
The 100th Missile Defense Brigade (Ground-based Midcourse Defense) Soldiers flexed their muscle memory in these basic tasks by participating in “Operation Burnt Cactus,” a situational training exercise, or STX, June 12-13 across southeast Colorado to develop the skills necessary to fight and win as a team.
“The intent was to take as many people from our unit out into the field as we could and practice soldiering skills at the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site,” said Army 2nd Lt. Edwin Wiley, who works in the intelligence section of the 100th Missile Defense Brigade.
The training concept pit two squads against one another, as each attempted to seize key terrain to perform listening observation post operations. The squads were tactically inserted and moved to their objective from separate points. Each team reacted to contact from the other team along the way using individually assigned M4 carbines and simulated rounds.
Wiley led the planning for the STX, which included a day of preparation at the Regional Training Institute and Butts Army Airfield at Fort Carson. The Soldiers, mostly representing staff sections within the brigade, practiced moving as a fire team, calling in nine line emergency medevac requests and loading and unloading simulated casualties to and from a helicopter.
Day two was the execution of the squad-on-squad operation using a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and crew provided by the 2-135th General Aviation Support Battalion of the Colorado Army National Guard, who airlifted the teams to Piñon Canyon from Fort Carson and back.
“The planning was extensive,” said Wiley. “We wanted to add realism to the training and give Soldiers a unique experience that they will remember.”
1st Sgt. Jeremy Christensen, of the 100th Missile Defense Brigade, said the cohesion among the teams was apparent.
“One of the biggest things I noticed was their ability to work as a team,” said Christensen. “Many of these Soldiers haven’t worked together before, but they demonstrated the ability to communicate well and move as a fire team. The time we spend training in the brigade all came together.”
Christensen said that the mission of the 100th Missile Defense Brigade - defending the homeland from intercontinental ballistic missile attack - does not always lend itself to training in a field environment, but training like this is important to retain skills and cultivate leadership abilities.
“Being able to conduct Army Warriors Tasks and Drills effectively is one of the most key fundamentals for future leaders,” said Christensen. “It is important to understand what happens behind the scenes, from developing the concept and operations order, to actually being out here pulling the trigger.”
Both Christensen and Wiley emphasized the significance of developing and maintaining partnerships within the Colorado National Guard and the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, who serve as higher level commands for the brigade.
“We appreciate their help and we need their assistance,” said Wiley. “It’s good for them to learn more about what we do and for us to learn more about them. For both non-commissioned officers and officers, our careers could lead us to those units in the future. Building those relationships is positive for everyone involved.”
Sgt. Hayden Murray, who serves on a 100th Missile Defense Brigade crew, said this type of training is beneficial, regardless of a Soldier’s career field.
“It was good working with a solid group of Soldiers out here,” said Murray. “Most of them are pretty knowledgeable as is, so it was mostly a refresher. Even though we’re air defenders, we’re Soldiers 24/7, so we have to maintain a level of readiness that’s good enough not only for us, but for the rest of the Army as well.”