NEWS | March 14, 2019

"King Cobra' Exercise Helps Empower Junior Leaders

By Sgt. Zachary Mott U.S. Army Central

Stress can either toughen an object or reveal its flaws. The junior noncommissioned officers and Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment experienced that stress first-hand during the recently completed King Cobra exercise in Southwest Asia.

“This exercise really focused on our leadership giving the junior leaders the opportunity to execute troop leading procedures throughout the mission,” said Lt. Col. Michael R. Rodick, commander, 1st Bn., 43rd ADA. “It gave the opportunity for those newly promoted NCOs and young Soldiers to really problem solve at their level and try to figure out how to accomplish different tasks that were assigned to them.”

Those tasks included simulated fire missions, missile reloads, movement of Patriot launchers as well as numerous other warrior tasks and battle drills.

“During execution, there was approximately 27 different tasks and training objectives associated with the exercise maximizing our opportunities for junior leaders to be developed as well as testing the (Mission Essential Task List) of each one of our batteries,” Rodick said.

A mission readiness exercise like this is uncommon while forward deployed, but it was something Rodick wanted to conduct in order to ensure his battalion was prepared should their particular skill set be required.

“I’ve been in Patriot for 17 years. It is absolutely not (common),” said Sgt. 1st Class Jared Pointer, battalion master evaluator, 1st Bn., 43rd ADA.

“This is not something that Patriot does while they’re deployed.”

One of the toughest obstacles to negotiate during King Cobra was to ensure the battalion was always able to accomplish its wartime mission: to engage and destroy tactical ballistic missiles and any air breathing threats across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, while attaining positive training value out of the exercise.

“We still do day-to-day Patriot operations, I think it’s important that we exercise our ability to be flexible with various injects that this exercise has thrown at us,” said Capt. Eric Terwilliger, commander, Battery C, 1st Bn., 43rd ADA. “I think we’ve performed well. It gets us out of that complacency where we’re just coming to work and doing our daily tasks.”

Taking ownership of the training missions allows Soldiers to step into roles they were unaccustomed to completing and gave them a new appreciation for the requirements of being an air defense Soldier.

“It’s a little awkward at first but it’s become a pretty fulfilling part of my day. I realize that I get to come into work and operate some pretty impressive equipment and contribute to the CDAG, combined defense of the Arabian Gulf, and it’s a little impressive to look at it,” said Spc. Tanner Dewey, tactical planning work station operator, team leader Battery Command Post, 1st Bn., 43th ADA. “There’s a lot of stuff that’s going on and I get to be a part of it and a part of a huge mission that’s going on here.”

That “huge” mission is also where the teamwork within each crew, battery and battalion is put on full display. Working together allows for the successful accomplishment of the 27 different tasks and training objectives for King Cobra.

“It’s extremely hard for one person to do the whole job by themselves. As a whole, we’ve broken down as to each job requires this amount of people,” said Cpl. Scottie Porter, crew operator, radio transmission operator, driver, Delta Battery, 1st Bn., 43rd ADA. “I’m responsible for communications. Without my communications, the ECS, the radar, they don’t know what’s going on downrange. We have it broken down in a system that works for teamwork so if you don’t have teamwork then you don’t have this mission and we’re not protecting anything.”

In addition to the firing battery’s, the support provided by Company E, 1st Bn., 43rd ADA, allowed the crews to keep their weapons systems ready to engage enemy targets in the real or simulated world.

“The generators are supporting that entire operation. Without us supporting the generators there would be no operation,” said Cpl. Kyle Wolfe, a wheeled vehicle mechanic with Co. E, 1st Bn., 43rd ADA.

This exercise has paved the way for the “Cobra Strike” Battalion to make changes and to continue to provide asset support across the CENTCOM AOR.

“We will continue to take the lessons learned from King Cobra and incorporate it into our training management,” Rodick said. “As we develop our plans, we’re certainly going to look at the different areas that we want to focus on and try to get some additional opportunities to exercise some more objectives which we found out that we really want to try to focus on again.

“Doing this with our combined and coalition partners within the AOR is also an incredibly important objective of ours. We look to maybe take the next step, in a broader sense, working with our joint and combined partners in the AOR.”

With the focus of this exercise being the empowerment of junior leaders, Rodick said he believes that was accomplished.

“Throughout this whole process, the two takeaways that I’m most proud of is one it gave an opportunity for the entire battalion down to the squad level to reassess their proficiencies on all METL,” he said. “Number two, it gave us an opportunity to really focus on junior leader development while not compromising safety or the mission, but allowing Soldiers to really learn to fail, if it so happens, but also to accomplish the mission and have that sense of pride while doing so.”