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News from the Oklahoma National Guard

NEWS | June 29, 2023

45th FAB Soldiers take on Western Strike 2023

By Spc. Danielle Rayon, 145th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Members of the Oklahoma Army National Guard’s 45th Field Artillery Brigade, along with support elements from 90th Troop Command, contended with the harsh summer elements and forested terrain at Fort Chaffee for exercise Western Strike, June 16-30, 2023.

The training exercise aims to not only prepare the FAB to assemble and deploy into a theater of operations and accomplish fire support tasks, but also functions as a method of evaluation of the Brigade’s ability to react in combat situations.

“The overarching concept of what we’re doing is an external evaluation for the battalion,” said Master Sgt. Billy Holley, operations non-commissioned officer for 1st Battalion, 158th Field Artillery Regiment. “It’s a scenario-based training broken up into different lanes that allow unit commanders to go out and assess how their troops operate under different circumstances.”

Soldiers with the FAB spent six days in the field running realistic fire missions and reacting to situations they could face during a deployment. The external evaluation aspect of the exercise is what sets Western Strike apart from other types of training exercises.

“It’s very easy to go in and get a snapshot of where you’re at,” Holley said. “It’s a whole other thing whenever you bring external evaluators in who are controlling some of the elements that you’re not. Not only do they hit you with some different events that are going to cause you to react differently, but they’re able to give you objective assessments on how your guys are doing and maybe some of the things that you don’t see as a leader.”

The 45th FAB participates in Western Strike every few years and provides Soldiers with a more realistic training experience than they receive during an average training cycle. The Guardsmen can refine their skills and improve overall readiness by reacting to life-like scenarios such as an ambush.

“The realism is the best part,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Hale, a rocket system crewmember with the 1-158 FA. “You don’t get this kind of training anywhere else. It’s real-life stuff because right now we’re in an operations area, and opposing forces could walk in here at any minute and we’d be under attack, so it’s really good training.”

The exercise not only allowed Soldiers to contend with life-like combat scenarios they might encounter on a deployment, but also forced them to overcome austere environments they may experience in a combat situation.

For Guardsmen who may not work outdoors in their civilian jobs, staying in the field allows them to face hardships they could endure while deployed, such as extreme weather conditions and working with heavy equipment.

According to Holley, these experiences serve to enhance the unit's readiness and are essential to being ready to answer their community our country’s call when it comes.

“I think that external evaluations are important for us in the National Guard as a whole because it really gives commanders an objective look at their formations,” Holley said. “This type of training is absolutely high value for the National Guard.”
Video by Staff Sgt. Reece Heck
Oklahoma Guard aviation unit trains for deployment to Kosovo
Oklahoma National Guard
Jan. 11, 2024 | 1:15
Nearly 50 Oklahoma Army National Guard Soldiers with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion (Assault Helicopter Battalion), 244th Aviation Regiment, 90th Troop Command, are undergoing mobilization training at Fort Cavazos, Texas, in preparation for their upcoming deployment to Kosovo in support of Operation Joint Guardian (KFOR).

The deployment aims to provide mission support for the Georgia Army National Guard’s 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and contribute to the NATO-led international peacekeeping force in Kosovo, comprised of 27 partner nations.


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