Fort Bragg, NC – First Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) (Airborne), recently conducted unit mobility training in northern Michigan. The primary focus of the battalion’s training was aerial gunnery, overwater currencies, flight lead and fully mission-qualified check rides, and joint close air support integration.
Since the training was in conjunction with Northern Strike, an Army National Guard sponsored joint live-fire training exercise, the unit also had the opportunity to employ the ARSOF 2022 principle of optimizing Special Operations Force (SOF) and conventional force interdependence.
1st Bn. executed the ARSOF 2022 vision of multiplying potential partnerships within the Army, creating an integrated training environment to improve the unit’s ability to provide trained and ready operational-level SOF to ground combatant commanders worldwide.
They selected the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center because of the variety of tailored, cost-effective, realistic training sites available. Lt. Col. Timothy Brock, Grayling Air Gunnery Range Commander, thought it was a good partnership.
“We built a bombing range,” he said.. ” It’s like building a playground; you want kids to play on it. We’re proud of the fact that we’re able to provide a training site that’s relevant and going overseas.”
Throughout the week, 1st Bn. used Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs) from the Air Force and Army National Guard. The JTACs conducted calls for fire on the range and fire support operations.
Lt. Col. Robert W. Hart, Vice Commander, 182d Airlift Wing, said it was a good way to keep recruiting and retention up.
“You reach the limit of what you can do, just training with conventional,” he said. “Training with SOF shows Soldiers what they can look for and keeps them hungry for learning. It’s a huge motivator.”
The 1/160th conducted Airborne currency for approximately 25 jumpers and provided training for Jumpmasters aboard an Air National Guard C-130. They also had the opportunity to participate in a personnel recovery exercise involving combat search and rescue with Air Force A-10s. The 160th flew two MH-60L Direct Action Penetrator (DAP) Blackhawks as rescue vehicles to exfiltrate five people off the objective.
According to the exercise planner for the 160th SOAR(A), what set them apart from a conventional Blackhawk in the same role was that “we bring a unique capability because not only can we exfil endangered personnel and downed aircrews, but we can also provide protective air to surface fires.”
Overall, said Hart, it was a “wonderful opportunity to reach out between conventional and SOF; you can always learn something from each other, and get better at your skill set.”