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.
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
"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
"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,"
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