Tactical Tailor

Iowa National Guard Trains in Wyoming’s Higher Elevation

CAMP GUERNSEY, Wyo. – Iowa National Guard infantry and aviation units traveled west by ground convoy and air to conduct annual training at the Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center in Wyoming at the end of May.

Wyoming’s elevation and expansive landscape offered a different training environment for the Midwest Soldiers.

“We’re spoiled in Iowa,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ryan Hill, a training officer and UH-60 Black Hawk pilot with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 147th Assault Helicopter Battalion. The state sits about 1,100 feet above sea level. “We have power for days. Whereas [in Wyoming], you’re starting at about 5,000 feet, which is going to change aircraft performance. That’ll be good training for aircrew members when they go to high altitude.”

Several aircraft crew chiefs qualified on door gunnery skills, shooting an M240 machine gun out of the window of a Black Hawk as it flew over targets.

“My favorite part was definitely going up high and then seeing the tracers hit the little buildings and all the humvees,” said Spc. Julia Adkins, a Black Hawk mechanic with the 2-147th AHB. “It was a great experience because I’m brand new to flying.”

The 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry Regiment (“Lethal Battalion”), took advantage of the expansive weapon qualification ranges and rugged terrain to practice squad-level maneuvers. Soldiers spent several days in tents in the field.

“It’s just a massive training area,” said Capt. Jeremy White, executive officer with the 1-168th Infantry. “You can drive it for hours one side to the other. If you think you can put all your gear on and run around conducting operations like normal, you’re wrong. You can’t dodge higher elevation and this is a completely different terrain.”

White described it as collective training to test how well Soldiers move as a team toward objectives using communication and hand signals. Companies took turns rotating through physically taxing live-fire exercises, moving swiftly up and down steep slopes through tall grass and dodging environmental obstacles.

“We grow as a team as we’re out there,” said Spc. Valery Gonzalez, with the 1-168th Infantry. “We obviously have to trust each other so nobody gets hurt.”

In addition to completing unit-level tasks, the two infantry and aviation elements joined together to conduct realistic operational training. Ground force commanders with the 1-168th Infantry sent up orders to the 2-147th AHB, imitating what would happen if infantry Soldiers needed aircraft assistance in a real-world scenario – whether they needed people, supplies or equipment transported.

“One of the big takeaways for us is that we’re a customer-based service,” said Hill. “We have a lot of young aviators who have been focused on getting good at flying the aircraft. Now, they’re going to be able to execute planning processes, and they’ll have passengers that need things with real-life factors playing into it.”

The training is also valuable for Soldiers in the 1-168th Infantry. White said many Soldiers in the Iowa Guard train with real aircraft only a few times in their careers. The 2-147th AHB offered familiarization with aircraft safety procedures, air assault movements, supply drops and sling load operations.

The 1-168th Infantry trained on their new M3A1 Carl Gustaf Multi-roll, Anti-Armor, Anti-Personnel Weapons System (MAAWS). The recoilless rifle is capable of firing numerous types of rounds suited for targets that range from humvees to armored tanks. It can also illuminate the battlefield and provide smokescreens.

Staff Sgt. Chris Nieman, an infantryman assigned to Company A, said the weapon’s improved optics system eliminates much of the guesswork in aiming at targets.

“I really enjoy being in the field and training Soldiers,” said Nieman. “It’s loud, it blows up. Soldiers enjoy that. On a tactical level, it just increases our lethality. It’s a force multiplier on its own.”

Members of the 1-168th Infantry also broke in some new M110 A1 squad-designated marksman rifles with scopes, ambidextrous controls and suppressors. Even with all the new features, it wasn’t much heavier than the traditional M4 carbine rifle most Army Soldiers use.

“It’s a dream to shoot,” said Staff Sgt. Gabriel Morey, an infantryman with Company C. “I’ve seen nothing but smiles coming off of our range here at Camp Guernsey, so we have pretty positive rave reviews so far.”

By SSG Tawny Kruse, Joint Force Headquarters – Iowa National Guard

2 Responses to “Iowa National Guard Trains in Wyoming’s Higher Elevation”

  1. Leo says:

    Does the Carl Gustav roll with great frequency? Is this a design flaw?

  2. Jimbo says:

    We did a PDT at Guernsey in 2009 for an Afghan trip. Man! What a great and beautiful place to train.