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News from the Oklahoma National Guard

NEWS | June 5, 2024

Oklahoma National Guard breaks ground on trench warfare lane

By Sgt. Conner McBride, Staff Sgt. Anthony Jones, Oklahoma National Guard

The Oklahoma National Guard broke ground on a new state-of-the-art one-way attack trench warfare lane at Camp Gruber Training Center, Oklahoma on June 2.

The new range is part of the OKNG’s efforts to provide Citizen-Soldiers with modern, challenging and realistic training areas, which will expose Guardsmen to a variety of threats they may face in conflicts around the globe, said Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Mancino, adjutant general for Oklahoma.

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VIDEO | 02:39 | Oklahoma National Guard breaks ground on trench warfare lane


“If you watch the war in Ukraine carefully, you see it’s transitioning to something that looks like World War I, where you have to be dug in to survive,” Mancino said. “In Oklahoma, we had a vision of creating a training facility that will allow our Soldiers to learn to fight in those environments. Learn to fight, clear and win in the trenches.”

Col. Shane Riley, director of military support for the Oklahoma National Guard, oversees the Guard’s efforts to transform training from GWOT-era tactics focused on counter-insurgency to training crafted to prepare Soldiers and leaders to face challenges from near-peer threats like China and Russia.

Riley said during the Global War on Terror, American military leaders did not need to worry about whether US forces had air superiority and could operate without concern for becoming targets for enemy aircraft or massed precision artillery strikes.

The establishment of the trench lane, combined with other modernization efforts like the Oklahoma National Guard’s counter-unmanned aerial systems school, is designed to force leaders to adapt to no longer having well-established air superiority and learn to both seize and defend the well-fortified positions not just from dug-in troops, but threats from above as well, Riley added.

“You aren’t going to show up and be dominant on the battlefield if you haven’t got the experience, the time in the saddle, to make hard decisions,” said Riley. “Having the complex trench system modeled off of the Eastern European theater and the threat environments we see around the world, is really going to give our Soldiers a challenge that they’re going to have to rise to.”

Echoing Riley, Col. Andrew Ballenger, commander of the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, said the trench lane will offer his Soldiers a local training ground where they can hone their skills in trench warfare, including learning how to counter aerial threats from unmanned aerial systems, a crucial skill based on the tactics observed in Ukraine.

“The use of trenches in Eastern Europe, between Russia and Ukraine, has illustrated the need for dismounted maneuver forces to understand how to fight and how to survive a linear battlefield under large-scale combat operations,” Ballenger said. “The establishment of this training site has double applicability to our forces. First [our engineers] have a significant hand in the construction and development this trench, secondly, our dismounted maneuver forces will be able to utilize this trench in order to develop and improve their tactics, techniques and procedures for counter-UAS warfare and regular defense operations.”

The trench warfare lane is being constructed by engineers from the 545th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 45th IBCT, and the 120th Engineer Battalion, 90th Troop Command, in three phases over the next three years, said Lt. Col Neal Harvey, commander of the 545th BEB.

Harvey said phase one focuses on creating the first of two trenches Soldiers will learn how to defend and attack. Phase two will see the creation of a second trench in order to create more complicated training scenarios to test Guardsmen. A covered pavilion with a large sand table for rehearsals and after-action reviews will take place during the final phase.

Leaders from the Oklahoma National Guard break ground on the Oklahoma National Guard’s new one-way attack trench warfare lane at Camp Gruber Training Center, Oklahoma on June 2, 2024. After reviewing how the war in Ukraine has developed over the last two years, Oklahoma National Guard leadership elected to construct a trench warfare lane to ensure its Citizen-Soldiers are ready to face large-scale combat operations against near-peer enemies like Russia and China. (Oklahoma National Guard photo by Sgt. Conner McBride)
SLIDESHOW | images | 240602-Z-A3542-1002 Leaders from the Oklahoma National Guard break ground on the Oklahoma National Guard’s new one-way attack trench warfare lane at Camp Gruber Training Center, Oklahoma on June 2, 2024. After reviewing how the war in Ukraine has developed over the last two years, Oklahoma National Guard leadership elected to construct a trench warfare lane to ensure its Citizen-Soldiers are ready to face large-scale combat operations against near-peer enemies like Russia and China. (Oklahoma National Guard photo by Sgt. Conner McBride)
An Oklahoma Army National Guard Soldier assigned to the 545th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, begins excavation of the Oklahoma National Guard’s new one-way attack trench warfare lane at Camp Gruber Training Center, Oklahoma on June 2, 2024. After reviewing how the war in Ukraine has developed over the last two years, Oklahoma National Guard leadership elected to construct a trench warfare lane to ensure its Citizen-Soldiers are ready to face large-scale combat operations against near-peer enemies like Russia and China. (Oklahoma National Guard photo by Sgt. Conner McBride)
SLIDESHOW | images | 240602-Z-A3542-1003 An Oklahoma Army National Guard Soldier assigned to the 545th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, begins excavation of the Oklahoma National Guard’s new one-way attack trench warfare lane at Camp Gruber Training Center, Oklahoma on June 2, 2024. After reviewing how the war in Ukraine has developed over the last two years, Oklahoma National Guard leadership elected to construct a trench warfare lane to ensure its Citizen-Soldiers are ready to face large-scale combat operations against near-peer enemies like Russia and China. (Oklahoma National Guard photo by Sgt. Conner McBride)
Leaders from the Oklahoma National Guard pose for a photo before breaking ground on the Oklahoma National Guard’s new one-way attack trench warfare lane at Camp Gruber Training Center, Oklahoma on June 2, 2024. After reviewing how the war in Ukraine has developed over the last two years, Oklahoma National Guard leadership elected to construct a trench warfare lane to ensure its Citizen-Soldiers are ready to face large-scale combat operations against near-peer enemies like Russia and China. (Oklahoma National Guard photo by Sgt. Conner McBride)
SLIDESHOW | images | 240602-Z-A3542-1001 Leaders from the Oklahoma National Guard pose for a photo before breaking ground on the Oklahoma National Guard’s new one-way attack trench warfare lane at Camp Gruber Training Center, Oklahoma on June 2, 2024. After reviewing how the war in Ukraine has developed over the last two years, Oklahoma National Guard leadership elected to construct a trench warfare lane to ensure its Citizen-Soldiers are ready to face large-scale combat operations against near-peer enemies like Russia and China. (Oklahoma National Guard photo by Sgt. Conner McBride)


“The 545th will begin the operation with the first excavation of the site, clearing and digging down to the required depth for the trench,” Harvey said. “Then the 120th Engineer Battalion will come in and lay all of the piers and [build] the real structure of the trench, and then backfill and finalize the site for occupation by the training units.”

Harvey said units can begin training at the new trench lane once the first phase is completed later this year. Guardsman may be utilizing the lane as early as November 2024.
Video by Sgt. Haden Tolbert
Oklahoma National Guard breaks ground on trench warfare lane
Oklahoma National Guard
June 2, 2024 | 2:39
The Oklahoma National Guard broke ground on a new state-of-the-art one-way attack trench warfare lane at Camp Gruber Training Center, Oklahoma on June 2.

The new range is part of the OKNG’s efforts to provide Citizen-Soldiers with modern, challenging and realistic training areas, which will expose Guardsmen to a variety of threats they may face in conflicts around the globe, said Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Mancino, adjutant general for Oklahoma.

“If you watch the war in Ukraine carefully, you see it’s transitioning to something that looks like World War I, where you have to be dug in to survive,” Mancino said. “In Oklahoma, we had a vision of creating a training facility that will allow our Soldiers to learn to fight in those environments. Learn to fight, clear and win in the trenches.”
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