By Sgt. Zachary Mott
U.S. Army Central
Success for an air defense artillery Soldier is not defined by almost, sort of or close enough. For air defenders, success is either all or nothing. Perfection is the only standard when it comes to defending critical assets in a defined region.
This is the mission for the Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment out of Fort Bliss, Texas. The “Cobra Strike” Battalion is currently deployed to Southwest Asia in support of U.S. Central Command and ready to provide immediate support to defeat any and all airborne threats.
“Our mission is to ensure that our assets, our people and equipment associated with those assets are protected at all times. Which means that we have to be very good at what we do,” said Lt. Col. Michael R. Rodick, commander, 1st Bn., 43rd ADA. “A leaker is a missile that gets through our defense and impacts on top of our asset. Our standard is zero leakers. We can’t afford to have any missiles strike those assets that we defend.”
Cobra Strike is filled with Soldiers seeking perfection. From Army physical fitness tests, to individual weapons qualification and all of the military occupational specialty-specific battle drills and tasks, Soldiers from Cobra Strike strive to be the best in everything they do.
“What we do a lot of, especially with Launcher (Platoon), they challenge each other and the hot crews compete on times for their reload drills to the van crews competing on their scores,” said Capt. Eric Terwilliger, commander, Battery C, 1st Bn., 43rd ADA. “We also rank our crews for how their performance is throughout the battalion. That competitive nature keeps us on our toes and trying to be better than the next person.”
Those individual competitions help push each crew and each battery, and in turn the battalion as a whole, to success in terms of its current mission here in Southwest Asia.
“In some units and some different jobs in the Army, you can operate anywhere around the world as a crew, as a section, as a team or even as a platoon,” said Sgt. 1st Class Martin De La Rosa, Launcher Platoon sergeant, Battery D, 1st Bn., 43rd ADA.
“Here in Patriot, in our job set and what we do, we don’t have that option. We have to operate as a battery in order to fully function and do what we do and do it well. It takes every Soldier, from the driver of the hot crew vehicle, to the maintainer inside the BMC, to one of our tactical control officers or tactical control assistants inside the van, always talking to each other and being on the same page so when the time comes and we need to fire that system we know without a shadow of a doubt that when they push that button that missile is going to fire and it’s going to be successful 100 percent of the time.”
Additionally, that teamwork is critical for Soldiers across the other sections of the Cobra Strike Battalion.
“Each person has to do their job,” said Spc. Tanner Dewey, tactical planning work station operator, team leader, Battery Command Post, Battery D, 1st Bn., 43rd ADA. "You’ve got to train and you’ve got to be able to trust your teammates because if you’re looking over your shoulder double checking everything they do, you don’t have time to do your job. It’s all about trusting your teammates, making sure they’re trained, making sure you’re trained so you can all, as a whole, accomplish the mission and excel and be better than what you were the day before.”
Through constant drilling and practice, the routine tasks and motions become committed to memory and helps to add to the efficiency of each crew.
“There’s a constant preparation from the moment we walk in to the moment we leave,’ said Cpl. Joe Lopez, a squad leader with Battery C, 1st Bn., 43rd ADA. “The quicker we can get the job done the quicker we can defend our assets and destroy the enemy.”
Working hard and striving for perfection is a difficult, but important, task. The Soldiers of Cobra Strike Battalion are constantly working to ensure they remain perfect when it matters most.
“If we miss, and we fail at our job, it’s thousands of lives at stake. It’s a catastrophe when we mess up. So we don’t allow for that to happen,” De La Rosa said. “That’s why we push our Soldiers constantly to push for excellent. Not just to meet the minimum standard, we need to push for excellent because at the end of the day if something happens and we really do need to do our job, we need to make sure that we’re 100 percent ready to go. I like to tell our Soldiers, we’re America’s insurance policy. We’re always there and we don’t wanna use it. But whenever we do gotta use it, you’re glad you have it.”
U.S. ARMY RESERVE
DEPT. OF DEFENSE
U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND
DEPT. OF HOMELAND SECURITY
BEST WARRIOR COMPETITION