ORCHARD COMBAT TRAINING CENTER, Idaho. – The 1-229 Attack Battalion “Tigersharks” completed another historic first by aerial gunnery that allowed for final certification of the Air Ground Integration Range at Digital Orchard Combat Training Center, Idaho from Mar. 1 to 21, 2022.
Each subordinate company completed aerial gunnery tables to include platoon gunnery, where four AH-64E version 6 Apache attack helicopters attacked targets that were marked by fixed wing aircraft high above the simulated battlefield, like the F-35A Lightning II fighter. One of only two DAGIR ranges in the US Army, OCTC allows aviation and ground units to train together while receiving accurate and real-time feedback on their performance.
“The OCTC training area is large and similar to Yakima,” said CW3 Daniel Nembhard, an AH-64 Apache helicopter pilot assigned to Alpha Company, 1-229 Attack Battalion. “The difference is here we have the opportunity to train against different threat electronic emitters that simulate enemy air defense systems on top of our normal gunnery exercises.”
Platoons qualified on the gunnery tables with the Apache’s 30mm cannon and Hydra-70 rockets while communicating with unmanned aerial systems, in addition to the F-15E Strike Eagle and A-10 Thunderbolt II manned aircraft from nearby Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. The gunnery tables ensure Apache pilots remain proficient on combat skills and can properly identify and engage targets as part of a joint task force.
Soldiers also worked together with Airmen from the Idaho Air National Guard’s 124th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Gowen Field, just outside Boise, and the forward arming and refueling point at OCTC. Fuelers from the Tigershark battalion’s forward support company, Echo Company, cross trained with the Guardsman fuelers to gain an understanding of how their sister service conducts refueling operations.
“It was eye opening to see how different they do things,” said Spc. Esteban Reyes, a petroleum supply specialist assigned to Echo Company, 1-229 Attack Battalion. “They are closer to the source, as to where we are more expeditionary at the [forward arming and refueling point]. In the end the result is the same, aircraft being fueled to accomplish the mission, but there are some differences in equipment and tactics because of the locations we have to operate out of.”
Combining aerial gunnery and cross training with the joint force generates the ability to utilize the different capabilities of the AH-64E helicopters, such as teaming with manned and unmanned aerial vehicles from the US Air Force and Air National Guard to destroy and defeat enemy formations. A single Apache helicopter can carry enough firepower to destroy an enemy armor company in large scale combat operations, and the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade leverages this firepower to provide world class attack aviation support to the joint force in the Indo-Pacific region and worldwide.