By Staff Sgt. Tina Villalobos
35th Infantry Division
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait—In the chill, pre-dawn hours of Jan. 21, Kansas National Guard troops of Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 130th Field Artillery, 75th Field Artillery Brigade, 35th Infantry Division worked alongside a team of U.S. Airmen to load two M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and one humvee aboard a C-17 aircraft bound for the United Arab Emirates for Operation Diamond Torrent.
The team of Soldiers and Airmen worked seamlessly to secure more than 54,000 pounds of payload in less than 30 minutes as they began the first leg of the operation. “The Air Force has worked with us hand-in-hand throughout this entire exercise to get it planned and resourced and everything,” said Capt. Michael Sprigg, battery commander.
The HIMARS Rapid Infiltration exercise, an element of Operation Diamond Torrent, demonstrated the capabilities of the C-17 and the HIMARS as an operational strategic strike package that can rapidly deploy wherever needed.
“The ‘HI-RAIN’ exercise allows us to put a HIMARS up on a C-17 or C-130 and fly into an area, giving us an extended range for what the rockets already have,” said Sprigg. “We can fly in, shoot the mission, and fly back out before they even know we were there.”
During the exercise, the U.S. Army and Air Force worked together as a team in conjunction with soldiers from Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
“This exercise improved interoperability by allowing us to work together and build relationships through shared hardship and shared systems,” said Maj. Steven Redmon, brigade fire support officer, 75th Field Artillery Brigade, U.S. Army. “Together we can accomplish a lot more. Going face-to-face and talking with our joint partners and our combined partners we can solve a lot of problems together.”
“We’ve been planning this for about a month and a half,” said Sprigg. “This is the first time we have ever done this. We’ve talked about it and trained on it, but we’ve never had the actual resources to complete the mission. The most gratifying thing was that we were able to come to the UAE and complete our mission within our time frame and return to Kuwait on time.”
The unit’s first sergeant appreciated the experience of broadening shared operational perspectives and opportunities.
“Some of the best things we can take away from this are working with the Air Force, coming to the UAE and working with the Emiratis and working with the Kuwaitis,” said 1st Sgt. Gerald Gibson, Battery A, 2-130th. “It provides a total security package and allows everyone to see our joint capabilities. Hopefully it gives our partner nations a good feeling knowing that we’re here and able to do what is necessary.”
Aside from its inherent interoperability characteristics, the exercise demonstrated that multiple HIMARS can be loaded, transported, unloaded, and put to use within a specified timeframe.
“I know all of my crew has gotten a lot out of this,” said Gibson. “You couldn’t ask for a better training scenario. As National Guard Soldiers, we don’t get opportunities like this to work with the Air Force and do these kinds of things. This is pretty much a once-in-a-career training opportunity.”
Battery A has had a number of notable achievements over the past nine months. The unit previously demonstrated its capabilities during Exercise Angel Strike last October by becoming the first Kansas National Guard unit since World War II to shoot actual fire missions in a forward-deployed environment.
“The Operation Diamond Torrent HI-RAIN exercise was a great display of a culmination of training and operations for a battery to execute well within a brigade commander’s intent,” said Redmon.
Battery A is headquartered in Holton, Kansas, 35 miles north of Topeka.