POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii -- Over 2,000 Soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division participated in Exercise Lightning Strike 2019 at Pohakuloa Training Area, April 1-18, 2019 on Hawaii Island. It is the division’s largest exercise and is conducted annually. Lightning Strike is a combined arms live-fire exercise and is designed to increase unit interoperability and synchronization of the division’s capabilities, including fires.
In years past, Lightning Strike was conducted as a live-fire exercise at the division level with division assets. This year, 25th Inf. Div. assets worked in concert with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps to make LS19 a joint exercise. Modern war-fighting situations were tested to give Tropic Lightning Soldiers a feel for potential conflicts in the United States Indo-Pacific Command’s area of responsibility.
“Threaded into this exercise are future-contested domains like space and cyber. This exercise trains for joint and combined capabilities, it trains for the future,” Brig. Gen. J.B. Vowell, 25th Inf. Div. Deputy Commanding General-Operations, said.
25th Inf. Div.’s Combat Aviation Brigade’s air cavalry squadron carried out a “deep attack” with cavalry scouts on the ground, division artillery and support Soldiers enabling the fight.
The exercise kicked-off by conducting its first task with the Air Force, practicing air movement and mobility tasks with a C-17 Large Cargo Aircraft. Once on the ground, the division incorporated joint air and ground simulations from the U.S. Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force.
While Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, and Sailors synchronize multi-domain capabilities from the division main operations center at PTA on Hawaii Island, Sailors, more than 150 miles away at Pearl Harbor, aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108), simulated joint call for fire missions.
“Working with the Army is one-hundred percent important to our mission,” said Ensign Dylan Roper, Engagement Control Officer on board USS Wayne E. Meyer. “Our fire support for troops on the ground helps match or outrange enemies. This mission supports the overall effort of defeating [the enemy] in our battlespace.”
At PTA, Soldiers conducted combined-arms live-fire missions in which they combined direct and indirect fires from AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, and Multiple Launch Rocket Systems. They also augmented their fire-power with systems like the RQ-20 Puma unmanned aerial vehicle conducting surveillance and intelligence gathering.
Exercise LS19 employed interoperability through communication, mission-command systems, division command and control, and the exchange and use of equipment across other services. Soldiers in today’s battle space train to fight in a multi-domain environment under live-fire conditions and Exercise LS19 offered them this opportunity.
“We know that any fight we have in the Pacific we are going to work with our ships, we are going to work with our aircraft, we are going to work with our sister services for a complementary and synergistic effect,” said Vowell. “This training is decisive and essential to our readiness in the Pacific and we can’t do this anywhere else [in Hawaii]. At PTA we can have distributed, out of contact, live-fires, and test our systems as we would do doctrinally. This is the only place we can bring all services together, and it is pretty impactful.”
PTA also offers the division sufficient space to conduct combined-arms training that is not possible on Oahu training areas. “Coming out [to PTA] we can conduct battery tables of live-fire. Once [batteries] prove their proficiency, they collectively conduct training under the command of the battalion headquarters, which is the next-level training.”