By Army Sgt. Peter Kresge
Ohio National Guard
MCCONNELSVILLE, Ohio (6/30/11) - Ohio National Guard members of the Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Brigade will be working on a unique mission in the form of the ongoing air defense of the National Capital Region, Ohio Guard officials said last month.
These Soldiers, who train for the opportunity to employ their skills on real-world missions, have been assigned to the Avenger missile system, a lightweight, day or night, limited adverse weather fire unit employed to counter enemy reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition efforts and low-level aerial threats. The Avenger missile system is unique because of its important contribution to national security.
Although the Soldiers drill far from the limelight of Washington, D.C., in a significantly smaller town here, they will soon be propelled onto the national stage when they mobilize in support of Operation Clear Skies later this year.
Soldiers of the 2-174th are familiar with this homeland defense mission – the unit mobilized in 2006 for the same mission.
The troops will drill extensively between now and their mobilization to ensure they are primed for defending the nation’s capital from air threats, a mission that was put into place after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“Not everyone gets this kind of opportunity to translate their training into a real-world mission with this type of importance,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeffery Wise, an operations sergeant with the battalion’s Headquarters Battery, who was a member of the 2006 mission.
The unit’s primary role is protecting the airspace over the District of Columbia by monitoring the Avenger missile system and remaining on alert for potential threats.
Prior to the actual mission, Soldiers carefully rehearse each step of their alert system repeatedly through a variety of classroom scenarios, hands-on training activities and table-top simulators.
“The talking piece is the most important,” Wise said, referencing the table-top training.
The troops use the simulators to rehearse their roles within the Avenger system as gunners, team leaders and noncommissioned officers-in-charge.
“The communication has to be precise. God forbid, but if the time comes, all the training up to that point comes into play and muscle memory kicks in,” Wise said, adding that the Soldiers are excited to be working with the Avenger missile system again.
“The training is excellent,” said Army Pfc. Andrew Kim, a gunner with the battalion’s Battery B. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to help defend the nation’s capital.”
“It’s a very versatile system,” said Army Sgt. Andrew Woldbold, a team leader with Battery B. “The Avenger can fire in place or on the move.”
“I’m looking forward to going on the mission this time.”
Woldbold, who narrowly missed joining the first mission when he enlisted in 2007, said he will enjoy the opportunity to see the many national monuments and landmarks – the same ones he will be guarding.