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Keaukaha hosts Army field training

As wind from helicopters whipped the grass, U.S. Army members from Oahu ran onto the Keaukaha Military Reservation for a large-scale military field exercise last week.

Three Chinook helicopters and one Blackhawk helicopter flew from Schofield Barracks Army Base and descended to KMR on Tuesday with 105 members of the Rock Company, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division eager to train in a new location.

Packed to the brim with tactical gear and large guns, Army members arrived at the immersive simulation meant to portray a realistic combat situation that the Army could face in a potential fight in the Pacific region.

“Part of what drew us over to Hawaii Island was that we needed an opportunity to leave Oahu and push part of our forces somewhere on a different island at a great distance to force us to stress our communications and allow us to really practice what we think may be the fight we could encounter in the future,” said Col. Josh Bookout, Brigade Commander of the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. “We could very well be fighting on island chains in the Pacific, so this is great opportunity to use new equipment and figure out how to communicate by utilizing the full width of the Hawaiian Islands.”

During training at Pohakuloa Training Area in April, Bookout spoke with members of the National Guard and was invited to use the training area at KMR for the large exercise.

“We realized this was a great area for training that we could use, and it was even better, because the assaulting team could only study the area on a map,” Bookout said. “This forces them to plan and execute movements in a place they’ve never been before.”

The first objective for the assaulting forces was to secure the reservation by pushing the opposing forces away from the area.

The assaulting forces had to navigate through the jungle and open fields while utilizing military tactics and communications systems to secure the large area from the opposing forces, which was comprised of about 28 people.

Members of the assaulting combat team used new radios as well as a device called ATAK, which works like a high-powered cellphone. Leaders can use an ATAK for navigation and silent communication between teams.

“Field exercises require a lot of moving pieces, communication, chaos, but as a team, we were good at cross-communicating, and we accomplished the mission,” said Capt. Ryan Montgomery, commander of the Rock Company, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.

While working in a completely new location was one of the more challenging aspects of the exercise, the new technology helped accomplish three objectives in about three hours.

“I think one thing we take for granted on Oahu is the fact that we know the training areas, so we faced that challenge here (of not knowing the terrain). We only had the imagery and vastly underestimated how thick the jungle was, so we adapted,” Capt. Montgomery said. “The new equipment we’re using significantly improved things. We have a Google map imagery with a live feed of individual people holding ATAKs, so we’re able to see our different teams in real time.”

Staff Sgt. Joseph Gates was a squad leader in Capt. Montgomery’s unit and was able to use the new technology while leading his team through the exercise.

“You’re trying to focus on speed and efficiency, but also navigating difficult terrain,” said Gates. “The new technology is able to make use that much more lethal and efficient. In my own opinion, it helps me to see the bigger picture of what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Bookout and Montgomery were thankful to the Hawaii National Guard for the use of KMR and plan to continue the mutually beneficial relationship between the two branches.

“The National Guard teaches us so much about the customs and culture of Hawaii, since they are part of the community, and in turn, since we’re able to train more, we do our best to provide any training expertise we can,” Bookout said.

“I’m pretty sure this was the first time regular Army forces trained in this area, and we’re thankful we were able to do this, because of our partnership with the Hawaii National Guard,” Montgomery said.

Email Kelsey Walling at kwalling@hawaiitribune-herald.com
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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