Friday, November 03, 2017

Vigilant Shield Takes Fight to New Mexico Mountains

By John Hamilton, White Sands Missile Range

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M., Nov. 3, 2017 — Shots rang out in a New Mexico canyon when soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division secured a simulated critical infrastructure facility from armed suspects during a training scenario here yesterday.

The scenario is one of several the soldiers came here to take part in during Vigilant Shield 18, an exercise designed to practice the rapid deployment of a unit of soldiers to support local guards or police in protecting a critical infrastructure site.

Sponsored by U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the exercise saw the deployment of about 100 soldiers from Fort Drum, New York.

"We've got that 24 hour response time -- it doesn't matter that we're not an airborne unit. We're light infantry, we're a mountain division, and we can be anywhere in the world, and we've got to be ready for that," said Army Spc. Moses Negron, a rifle team leader with 10th Mountain Division, who deployed for the exercise.

The training event has included several scenarios to help prepare the soldiers for a possible mission that might require close cooperation with police, local special security guards and others who might not be familiar with military operations but need Army support.

Specialized Training Scenarios

The Vigilant Guard soldiers conducted security sweeps and patrols, set up observation points and ran through specialized training scenarios that represented possible real-world occurrences they might see on an infrastructure defense mission. Scenarios including suspicious persons, lost hunters, and guard shift changes were played out, giving the soldiers a chance to practice handling situations that could occur during a real domestic defense operation.

Mountains scenarios saw platoons retake a simulated facility from a group of violent disgruntled security forces. Soldiers and civilian guards faced off, fighting against each other using blank ammunition, making for an energetic engagement that gave the soldiers a chance to do detailed training on close-in combat in mountainous and urban terrain. Several White Sands guards played the roles of an opposing force of radicalized or disgruntled guards already inside the facility, requiring the soldiers to assault the facility and neutralize the threat.

"Out here in the desert and mountains, we're really putting different parts of our training together, working in small groups and bigger group with the civilian guard forces. … Whether we're in the mountains or down in the valley, we're going to be ready," said Army Pfc. Daniel Chan, a machine gunner with the 10th Mountain Division.

The secure facility seized by the guards for the exercise scenario was represented by the Mountain Village test site here. Built as a test site for network integration evaluation, the site is composed of several buildings with an outer wall, making it a decent representation of a secure facility. Located in mountainous terrain nearly a mile above sea level, the site also gave the soldiers a chance to move around in terrain that's a bit different from what they are used to at Fort Drum.

"This is something that puts us into a new location, takes use out of cold, desolate Fort Drum and puts us in a new spot," said Army Capt. Andrew Boyle, commander of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry, 10th Mountain Division. "It allows the soldiers to train in a desert atmosphere and apply some of those battle drills in something different."
Security guard fires a rifle.

As a rapid deployment exercise, the event was put together in a rather short period of time, with White Sands Missile Range operations staffers coordinating daily with U.S. Army North's representatives. Further complicating matters was Army North's current real-world commitments to disaster relief missions in Houston and Puerto Rico. In the end, the teams were able to pull together and make the exercise happen.

"It wasn't easy," said Lea Jones, a White Sands Missile Range operations officer. "There were a lot of moving parts and the exercise plan changed many times, but it's great to see it all come together in the end and see the soldiers taking part in a successful exercise."
The 10th Mountain Division soldiers are expected to continue operating here until Nov. 9 and then to conduct additional training before returning to Fort Drum.

Secretary Mattis Travels to Finland, Belgium, and the United Kingdom

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis will embark on Sunday, Nov. 5, to re-affirm key partnerships and alliances in Europe.

Secretary Mattis will begin his engagements with a meeting with the Northern Group, a multilateral forum of 12 countries, including the five Nordic countries (Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Norway), the three Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, and the UK from Nov. 6-7.

From Nov. 8-9, Secretary Mattis will attend a NATO Defense Ministerial and, separately, host a meeting of ministers from the Defeat-ISIS coalition. The trip will underscore the commitment of the United States to our NATO alliance and to defeating ISIS.

On Nov. 10, he will conclude his trip with a visit to London where he will meet with United Kingdom's Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson.

Face of Defense: Avionics Technician's Innovations Save Time, Money

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier 455th Air Expeditionary Wing

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Nov. 3, 2017 — Air Force Senior Airman Christopher Caruso realized there was a much better way to test the functionality of a sniper pod and the electrical systems of an F-16 Fighting Falcon, so he pioneered a new way to detect problems and troubleshoot those systems.

Caruso, a native of Campton, New Hampshire, is an avionics technician with the maintenance unit attached to the 555th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron.

"As an avionics technician, I inspect the electrical and communication systems on the F-16," Caruso said. "This aircraft is a 'fly by wire,' so it is a digital system sending signals everywhere. Without the wiring, and the airmen who maintain them, this aircraft would literally be a sitting hunk of metal."

During his time deployed here, Caruso's two innovations were a digital video recorder tester and a sniper pod test stand. They may sound simple, but they're crucial in keeping the close air support mission moving.

"The DVR tester allows me to interface with the aircraft and bypass the digital video recorder head unit, which records all of the videos from the multifunction display," he said. "The multifunction display shows the pilot what is going on with the aircraft. It will also show radio frequencies, flight displays and other visual aids the pilot has while flying."

For this to work, Caruso bought a small television. He connects it to the aircraft, and it gives him a live view of what the pilot sees on their systems.

Real-Time Analysis

"Bypassing this system, I am able to view everything and troubleshoot down to a broken wire," Caruso said. "In the past, I would have to take a cartridge out of the head unit, and bring it over to another section, which is usually not manned 24/7, to give it an ops check. With this method, we are able to see real-time if there is an issue with the wiring or the head unit."

For maintenance, time is an essential commodity, and troubleshooting a component could ground an aircraft for an extended amount of time, putting a burden on other aircraft. This time-saving mentality extends to another innovation Caruso devised that affects the sniper pod.

The sniper pod provides advanced long-range target detection/identification and continuous stabilized surveillance for all missions, including close air support of ground forces. It enables aircrews to detect and identify weapon caches and individuals carrying armaments, all outside jet-noise ranges.

"The sniper pod test stand allows us to troubleshoot a pod by performing maintenance on it and perform ops checks without physically mounting it to the aircraft," Caruso said.

Time-Saving Innovation

"This innovation saves between two to three hours during sniper pod maintenance," said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Wesley Ruuti, superintendent of 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron F-16 maintenance. "That equates to around six to nine total man-hours, given pod maintenance is usually performed by two to three personnel."

One of the best benefits in a combat environment is the ability to do pod maintenance directly on the aircraft without having to perform time consuming reconfigurations, Ruuti added.

"Crews are now able to simply roll the new pod mounted stand next to the aircraft to conduct any necessary troubleshooting," he explained. "If the mission dictates, they would be able to return the aircraft to combat ready status in less than 20 minutes."

Support from his leaders was monumental in turning an idea into something tangible for Caruso's innovations to come to fruition.

"We have procedures in place to locally manufacture equipment and it usually starts with a specific idea in mind," Ruuti said. "Chris had a vision and knew exactly what he needed. As supervisors, we simply listened and provided him the necessary guidance to see it through.

"Everyone was bought in to Chris' idea, all the way up to the Maintenance Group commander," the chief continued. "This unit's leadership team is not in the mindset of 'It's always been that way.' They trust in the young minds and ideas of maintainers. That's what helped make this project so successful."

Team Effort

The metals tech shop was one unit that was pivotal in turning Caruso's blueprints for the sniper pod stand into an actual working mechanism.

"Everyone has been so supportive, since they all want something that can improve the overall performance of our processes and procedures," Caruso said. "My supervision gave me the confidence and time to get this done. Everyone from the commanders to my direct supervision has shown interest, whether it's pushing paper or supplies."

Caruso credits his accomplishments to the whole unit, who enabled him to put his innovations together. His ideas have enabled the team to generate aircraft with little delay and deliver combat airpower in Afghanistan.
"Chris is an outstanding airman, driven to help others and refine processes," Ruuti said. "His efforts improved the unit's efficiency and ultimately had a profound impact on the entire Air Force -- specifically, the F-16 community."