NY Army National Guard turns travel time into training time

Soldiers assigned to the New York Army National Guard's, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion 69th Infantry, assault a position during training at the 106th Rescue Wing, F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., on January, 11, 2020. Soldiers of the 69th Infantry conducted ground combat-focused field exercises at the 106th RQW as part of their monthly training. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin J. Donaldson)

WESTHAMPTON BEACH, N.Y.–New York Army National Guard Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry’s Bravo Company spent more time training and less time traveling, when they conducted basic tactics training at Gabreski Air National Guard Base here during their January drill weekend.

The Farmingdale, N.Y.-based light infantry company—one of four maneuver companies in the 69th Infantry– is two hours away from the training areas at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, and over ninety minutes away, on a good traffic day, from Camp Smith Training Site in the Hudson Valley.

And the ranges and maneuver areas at Fort Drum are a six hour ride north from Long Island.

But the Air Guard Base at Westhampton Beach is less than an hour’s drive from the company’s base at the Farmingdale Armed Forces Reserve Center.

That means the company’s limited weekend training time can be spent in the field and not on the bus, said Bravo Company 1st Sgt. Timothy Boyle.

In addition, there’s less overhead involved in using the training areas the Air National Guard maintains at Gabreski than at Camp Smith or Fort Dix, Boyle said.

Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base is the home of the New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing. The wing is configured to conduct search and rescue operations on land or sea with special aircraft and helicopters and highly trained pararescue jumpers.

“Training at the 106th is great because of the proximity to our home station,” Boyle said. “We can spend more time training as opposed to commuting and preparing to train. This training site is perfect for the platoon or company size.”

The combined Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base and Suffolk County Airport complex encompasses 1,451 acres, so there is enough room along the runways to run small unit infantry training.

It was the first time the company had used the location.

On January 10-12, the 85 Soldiers focused on basic squad tactics of fire and maneuver, explained Capt Matthew Calvo, the company commander.

“Company leadership gave classes on attack drills, then the platoon used the 106th terrain and ran attack lanes by squads,” Calvo said. “The Soldiers ran these drills repeatedly until the morning of the 12th.”

In each training lane the squad leaders practiced maneuvering one fire team against an enemy, while the other fire team laid down a base of fire. Infantry squads practice this kind of leap-frog attack until it becomes second nature, Boyle explained.

“This type of training enables us both to identify as well as deal with possible weaknesses and also communication concerns in a low-level environment,” Boyle said.

The terrain at Gabreski, located on the eastern end of Long Island, is perfect to practice light infantry tactics, he said.

The fact that it is so close to the company’s home base allowed them to really maximize their weekend training time, Boyle added.

“We had a successful weekend training, the 106th was an ideal training site, and we would like to continue training here,” Calvo said.

He was pleasantly surprised at how helpful the wing leadership was in making the training happen, Calvo added.

Command Chief Master Sgt. Michael Hewson, the 106th’s command chief, said that the wing was happy to help the National Guard Soldiers train.

“The joint Army and Air Guard coordination and collaboration are important to meeting our state and federal mission,” Hewson said. “It was a pleasure to assist the 69th Infantry with our resources here at the 106th.”