Story by Capt. Brian Hare and Photos by Sgt. Brad Mincey, 108th Public Affairs Detachment
ALAMOGORDO, N.M.— The South Carolina Army National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 263rd Air Defense Artillery (ADA) from Anderson, S.C. conducted a live-fire exercise on the Fort Bliss Military Reservation April 7 as the final event in preparation for an upcoming deployment in support of Operation Noble Eagle.
The 2-263rd ADA has deployed twice since 2005 to protect the pillars of democracy. This upcoming deployment is unique in that 2- 263rd ADA will be deployed during the same time as that of their commanding unit, the 263rd Army Air and Missile Defense Command (AAMDC), also from Anderson. The 2-263rd ADA and 263rd AAMDC will have more than 200 air defenders that will work with other Department of Defense agencies as part of the homeland organization that is designed to protect our nation’s center of government.
The 263rd AAMDC is the national trainer that validates every Army air defense unit that deploys in the homeland. On the day following the live-fire exercise, the 2-263rd received deployment validation from the 263rd AAMDC. The validation represents a certification that follows a series of training exercises for the battalion going back to September 2013.
According to Maj. Gen. Glenn Bramhall, the commander of the 263rd AAMDC, National Guard air defense units like the 2-263rd ADA bring added value to our nation’s overall ability to defend against terrorism. “Our crews are together for the full-length of the deployment,” said Bramhall. “This is their primary event and they’ll be on station for approximately one year.”
During the live-fire exercise, crews from the 2-263rd ADA fired over 40 missiles utilizing Avenger and Man Portable Air Defense Systems during both day and night operations. Remotely piloted vehicles provided and operated by Griffon Aerospace served as the targets for the training exercise.
“The exercise is for familiarization and a confidence builder,” said Lt. Col. Marion Collins, commander of the 2-263rd ADA. “Hopefully they’ll never have to engage a real aircraft, but everybody wants to feel good that they’re qualified and ready to do it if they have to.”
Spc. Christopher Wheeler, an Avenger crewmember with the 2-263rd, commented on the mobilization training and the upcoming mission. “Everything I’ve seen out here has been smooth,” said Wheeler. “We’ve got good leadership and they know what they are doing. I think we are well-equipped and will be able to execute this mission.”
In addition to the live-fire exercise, Soldiers from the 2-263rd completed other mobilization activities as part of the deployment validation process while at Fort Bliss, including warrior tasks, battle drills, and individual weapons qualifications.
“We’ve done a tremendous amount of training and work learning all the tasks that we need to be able to perform our mission properly in the defense of the homeland,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Russell Vickery, 2-263rd ADA command sergeant major. “We have proud, passionate Soldiers and I couldn’t thank them more for what they do. None of this would be possible without the Soldiers.”