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Air Cavalry, ‘Sky Soldiers’ Test New Air Assault Concept

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As the setting sun marked the start of another spring evening at the training area here, the roar of helicopter turbine engines competed against the thrumming rhythm of rotor blades beating the air as 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division soldiers began their work.

Helicopter flight crews with the 1st ACB partnered with “Sky Soldiers” of the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade to conduct an air assault/infiltration exercise in the late hours of April 23.

Night Assault Training

The night assault, with the objective to secure an airfield to integrate vehicles into an airborne infantry formation, was part of Army Joint Modernization Command’s Joint Warfighting Assessment 18.


JWA is a training event designed for soldiers to operate realistically and test new concepts and capabilities required for the joint force to win across multiple environments.

“We are conducting a battalion-sized air assault and providing aviation support to 1st Battalion of the 173rd Airborne Brigade while they test a new vehicle concept,” said Army Lt. Col. Nathan Surrey, commander of the 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st ACB and aviation task force for JWA.

“The exercise is complex and part of a much larger combined arms training event for JWA, but we are inserting these paratroopers deep into enemy territory at multiple landing zones with an equal opposing force present,” Surrey said.

Four CH-47 Chinook and four UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter flight crews transported and inserted nearly 300 soldiers into the training area. Additionally, four AH-64 Apache helicopter crews provided security and attack aviation support during the infiltration.

Employing Speed, Surprise

“It’s all about speed, surprise and operational reach,” Surrey said. “That’s what we provide to our ground forces.”

The assault mission tested both units’ capabilities and challenged them with new operational concepts that emphasize the importance of decisive action.

The key focus of the training was to integrate vehicles into a light infantry formation, Army Maj. Chris Zagursky, the executive officer for 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, said.

“The purpose of this exercise is to test an emerging concept that could be used in the future and in combat with a peer adversary where we could conduct a joint forcible entry into contested terrain,” Zagursky explained. “1st ACB provides us the ability to get deep into enemy territory with lift and attack assets before we seize and maneuver with vehicles on the ground.”

Air Assault Insertion Exercise

In most situations, the “Sky Soldiers” would parachute in to conduct their operations, but 1st ACB allowed the operational flexibility to replace the airborne drop with an air assault to validate the future concepts.

“We inserted them into multiple landing zones to allow them to isolate and secure the airfield,” said Army Capt. Eric Murphy, the assistant operations officer for 3rd AHB. “This allowed them to conduct air-land operations to allow their vehicles, the new concept being tested, to come in and be utilized as an advantage against the enemy.”

After the infiltration was complete, ground forces continued to seize and secure territory while using vehicles to maneuver and defeat the enemy.

From planning to execution, the units worked together to complete the mission and strengthened their relationships along the way.

“Planning and training with 1st ACB has been a privilege,” Zagursky said. “We have learned a tremendous amount from working with them and look forward to working together again in the future.”

Those feelings were mutual.

“Building partnerships with our ground force brothers and sisters is a great opportunity for us,” Murphy said. “It’s great to get out here and train with a skilled ground force while testing some new concepts for ourselves.”

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