U.S. D-2 THAAD Battery: first gunnery certification on foreign soil

Delta Battery, 2nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment of the 2-1 ADA Battalion, 35th ADA Brigade, qualified on the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) weapon system outside of the United States—the first time in Air Defense history. 2nd Lt. Kelsey Burns (D-2 Platoon Leader) reports.

US D 2 THAAD Battery first gunnery certification on foreign soil
From left, Pfc. Patrick Griffin, Pfc. Jacob Kuchar, 2nd Lt. Kelsey Burns (Photo U.S. Army / Capt. Marion Jo Nederhoed, 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade)

D-2 Battery, the “Defenders”, initially occupied the Seongju remote site in April 2017. Ever since their deployment to the Republic of Korea, the Defenders’ Soldiers committed themselves to providing constant protection for over 51 million Korean civilians. Hindered by limited resources and mission requirements, the Defenders not only achieved Dragon Brigade standards, but they excelled as one of the best units in the branch. The leadership maintained readiness requirements at 90% or above; the Soldiers remained disciplined and proficient in their tasks; and the unit together—after establishing their site, opening their new office facilities at Camp Carroll, conducting THAAD-PATRIOT interoperability testing, and solidifying their storage combat load procedures—proceeded to execute battery-level gunnery certifications in October 2018.

For evaluators to certify the unit and classify the system as fully mission capable, the battery must maintain the ability to track and destroy tactical ballistic missile threats according to mission-qualified standards. The THAAD sensor, with its wide, coveted range of surveillance, enables the unit to track further and more accurately than Patriot Radar Sets.

In preparation for the culminating battery-level event, the Defenders trained according to their foundational doctrine. Standardization teams, comprised of evaluators from 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command (AAMDC), stationed at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii, and 35th ADA Brigade, stationed at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, arrived to Combined Task Force (CTF) Defender to codify the mission and equipment for “Fight Tonight” readiness.

Prior to the evaluation, the battery completed strategic collective training on the weapon system in order to achieve each stage of the THAAD gunnery certification requirements to include: mission brief, written exam, administrative and maintenance readiness assessments, alert state assumption, and air battle management (ABM) level XI in accordance with THAAD doctrine. A majority of the Defenders’ Soldiers reported to the THAAD unit directly from Advanced Individual Training (AIT) with limited experience in a line unit, let alone a forward-deployed unit with an imperative, 24/7 mission. The deliberate, structured training plans aided novice crews to build knowledge, competence and confidence on the weapons system.

Upon the arrival of the standardization team, the Defenders’ Tactical Control Officers delivered their mission brief flawlessly, encompassing gunnery training and their certification scenario. After earning accolades for their maintenance and administrative assessments, Crews 1, 2, and 3 surpassed the required 90% standard for the written exams, alert state assumptions, and air battle management evaluations. Evaluators commended the Soldiers on their ability to balance mission requirements in conjunction with the evaluation, a feat no other THAAD unit has completed outside of the United States and its territories.

An After Action Review (AAR) and out-brief from the Standardization Team provided the Defenders resources and knowledge to sustain mission readiness standards in order to continue their high excellence training and mission performances. With their successful completion of THAAD’s first gunnery certification on foreign soil, the Defenders’ Soldiers continue to emulate high standards since their initial 2017 deployment, serving as a formidable force across the Air Defense branch.