Air Defense Artillery soldiers kept vigilant eyes as they scanned the darkening sky over Fort Bragg in search of ballistic missiles or enemy aircraft.
It’s all part of training for soldiers of 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, who are practicing identifying and intercepting and simulating the destruction of missiles in their annual mission readiness exercise at Fort Bragg. The brigade’s 3rd Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment will deploy to southwest Asia this winter.
Capt. Michael Schoenbeck, the battalion’s C Battery commander, observed his soldiers as they used computer software to simulate air battles to identify ballistic missiles and enemy aircraft in their airspace.
“I feel very confident with their level of knowledge and expertise,” he said.
Fort Bragg’s 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade is one of four brigades under the 32nd Army Air & Missile Defense Command based at Fort Bliss, Texas. These brigades deploy to provide air missile defense to protect assets in support of the Joint Force Commander’s priorities.
It’s one of Fort Bragg’s lesser-known tenant units, sometimes overshadowed by the 82nd Airborne Division and special operations forces, but its capabilities make it a desirable preference for combatant commanders across the globe.
The brigades use Patriot missile systems – Phased Array Tracking Radar Intercept on Target – which can counter threats from ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and advanced aircraft.
The system’s radar scans the sky looking for threats and, if any are present, is able to distinguish the type of threat. Operators in a control station monitor the radar system.
Once the Patriot launcher is set up, it takes just seconds to fire a missile that is guided to the target by the control station.
Those training for the deployment include technicians, support crews and security forces.
“For the combatant commander overseas, we give him options so he’s not pinned into a box,” Schoenbeck said.
Air Defense Artillery units are best poised to counter ballistic missile threats, such as those reportedly lodged by North Korea and Iran.
It’s widely known American troops work with the Republic of Korea on various defense systems to protect South Korea. Last month, about 30,000 American troops partnered with about 50,000 troops from the Republic of Korea to conduct its annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian war games, which North Korea routinely denounces as a prelude to war. North Korea sometimes responds with displays of force, as it did at the start of the Key Resolve/Foal Eagle spring drills by launching two short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan.
And last year, international newspapers reported Iran had produced intercontinental ballistic missiles as part of its efforts to improve its ballistic missile capabilities.
The intercontinental missiles posed a threat to the United States due to their expanded range, according to the report from the Jerusalem Post.
No matter the threat, American troops are prepared to respond.
Staff Sgt. Paul Hayslip, a 27-year-old Patriot crew member, has worked on the weapon system for eight years. This will be his fifth deployment.
He’s only fired the Patriot missiles twice, and both of those times were during training exercises. But that shows the power of the unit’s presence, he said.
“Our placement alone is a deterrent,” Hayslip said.
Information from Stars and Stripes was used in this report. Staff writer Amanda Dolasinski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3528.