Evasion Training for the 2-211th Aviation

before Heading to Kuwait and Iraq

 

By Hiro Chang

Fort Sill Cannoneer

 

Published May 6, 2008

 

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Chief Warrant Officer Tom Frickanisce uses a lensatic compass to orient his team on a map to plan a route to a rendezvous point at Fort Sill, Okla.

Photo by Hiro Chang

Chief Warrant Officer Tom Frickanisce uses a lensatic compass to orient his team on a map to plan a route to a rendezvous point at Fort Sill, Okla.

FORT SILL, Okla. — For flight crews, having to make a forced landing is one the worst things that could happen to them. Not being able to be picked up by their sister aircraft and having to evade enemy contact makes it worse.

So began the near 6.5-hour adventure for a four-Soldier team during an evasion training exercise on the rough and rocky terrain of Fort Sill's Thompson Hill range.

The team consisted of 1st Lt. Justin N. Moore, Chief Warrant Officer Thomas G. Frickanisce, Sgt. Simon D. Debran, and Spc. Jacqueline Skougard, all from 2nd Battalion, 211th Aviation.

"Our scenario was, we were a flight of two, returning from an undisclosed location, and we received fire and had to take precautionary landing," Moore said, describing the scenario.

After landing, the crew came under fire by the opposing force, and had to call for evacuation from their sister aircraft.

"Our sister aircraft tried to rescue us, but for some reason or another, they weren't able to land, so we had to evade capture," he continued.

After destroying any operational equipment from the downed aircraft and successfully suppressing the OPFOR, they began to rush into the cover provided by the hills to begin their evasion.

"I was point most of the time," Frickanisce said. "[But] when the lieutenant says to slow down, he's the boss."

After experiencing the grueling terrain and heat of the dry Oklahoma weather, they slowed down, but to a reasonable and tactical pace.

Sgt. Jacqueline Skougard, above, mans her crew-served weapon as Chief Warrant Officer Tom Frickanisce call for air support after a simulated landing.

Photo by Hiro Chang

Sgt. Jacqueline Skougard, above, mans her crew-served weapon as Chief Warrant Officer Tom Frickanisce call for air support after a simulated landing.

"I didn't realize how many rocks there were," Debran said. "There were rocks everywhere, every length of field was huge rocks. I don't know how many times my feet kept twisting."

The crew made stops along the way to coordinate a route that would maintain their cover and concealment from the enemy.

"We underestimated the terrain," Skougard commented. "We were more or less learning to use the terrain to our benefit. I think, for the most part, we stayed in pretty good cover."

The crew was accompanied by a controller/observer during the entire course to ensure their safety and accuracy and the viability of the accomplishment of their tasks.

"I think they have to walk the line between giving you guidance and letting you kind of fall on your face, because it is better to do that in a controlled training environment than in a real scenario," Moore said, commenting on the hardships of being a trainer.

And the crew, whose only time together was in flight, had to overcome their unfamiliarity with each other to succeed in their training.

"Crew coordination got better later on," Skougard said. "I'm new, but for the most part, I think there's a standard way that everyone has of doing things, no matter where you're from. But the Army has standards in such a way that when you're in that situation with people you aren't used to working with, you kind of just fall into the pattern."

"When we went out there as a crew, we kind of just fell into place," Frickanisce agreed.

The crew not only had to traverse hard terrain but clear a building for rendezvous with rescue forces where they encountered an improvised explosive device, but those weren't the only hardships they faced.

"I think the hardest part, for me, was balancing what's in game, what's out of game, what is part of the scenario, and what is administrative to ensure that we were accomplishing the warrior tasks," Frickanisce said.

He also viewed the exercise as not only a training event for the unit, but for the trainers as well to make any future training better.

"We talked at the end of the day about some things that can be improved upon, and that's why we're very big on after-action reviews," Moore said.

"It was long and hard," Skougard said after concluding the exercise.

"I think it was good training because you know in a real-life scenario it’s going to be like that or probably worse because we are going to be more stressed out; it's going to be for our lives and not just for training purposes."