Eyes on the Sky: 29th ID Soldiers enhance theatre capabilities

Pvt. 1st Class Tieran Bonner and Spc. Michael Mackey, crewmembers from Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery set up an air defense radar during an air defense exercise at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait January 20, 2017. Soldiers from the 29th Infantry Division and 1-44th ADA ran drills on their respective air defense systems. (Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Kelly Gary, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office)

Pvt. 1st Class Tieran Bonner and Spc. Michael Mackey, crewmembers from Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery set up an air defense radar during an air defense exercise at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait January 20, 2017. Soldiers from the 29th Infantry Division and 1-44th ADA ran drills on their respective air defense systems. (Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Kelly Gary, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office)

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait (25 January 2017) – Air Defense capabilities are constantly upgrading to stay ahead of emerging threats. Soldiers are trained on a variety of systems and equipment at the Air Defense schoolhouse, but for many this training will be their only experience with a majority of the systems, especially for Soldiers serving in Division-level units. When Soldiers with the 29th Infantry Division Air Missile Defense Team were granted a chance to implement their training on the latest radar systems here, members of the unit saw it as a chance for the unit’s Sentinel Radar team to embrace the rare opportunity and lead the way for divisions to follow as they participate in Operation Spartan Shield.

“The 29th ID is laying out the groundwork upon which future divisions will fall in,” said Capt. Nicole Vajda, 29th ID Sentinel Radar officer-in-charge. “Incoming divisions will be able to begin operations almost immediately, allowing seamless transitions from one division to the next.”

The unit trained on the advanced Sentinel radar, an advanced radar designed to provide persistent air surveillance and fire control quality data through command and control systems to defeat unmanned aerial systems, cruise missiles and fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft threats.

Maj. Gen. Blake Ortner, 29th Infantry Division Commanding General, speaks with Soldiers from the 29th ID Air Defense Artillery during an air defense exercise here January 20. The Soldiers conducted training by testing the Division's Sentinel radar system.(Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Kelly Gary, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office)

Maj. Gen. Blake Ortner, 29th Infantry Division Commanding General, speaks with Soldiers from the 29th ID Air Defense Artillery during an air defense exercise here January 20. The Soldiers conducted training by testing the Division’s Sentinel radar system.(Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Kelly Gary, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office)

It was the second exposure to the system for the 29th ID AMD team. The team initially familiarized themselves with the system while participating in the division’s Warfighter Exercise during mobilization. Following the exercise, the radars were sent to theater where the Soldiers promptly set up the equipment, eager to test it out. With the direction of Vajda, they emplaced and set up the radar, generator, and shelter. Once all of the cables were attached and the last electricity grounding stake hammered into the ground, the team could start detecting.

“We were not positive the systems would pick up certain tracks,” said Vajda, in reference to detectable objects in the air space. But any uncertainty before the exercise dissipated when the radar proved itself.

“It was exciting –after the exercise we were even more confident in system capabilities,” Vajda said.

Currently the Sentinel is the only 360-degree coverage air defense radar that the Army maintains. The radars that 29th ID deployed are the latest model which are capable of hosting an enhanced armor protection kit that increases Soldier survivability. The improved platform allows for installation of equipment that in turn offers the ability to be coordinated with the Army Integrated Air & Missile Defense systems.
Experience with various radar systems is key. With Vajda’s main background in the slightly different field of Global Missile Air Defense, the unit looked to Staff Sgt. Romando Green, the Air Missile Defense noncommissioned officer-in-charge for the 29th ID for the institutional knowledge necessary for mission success. Green has spent 15 years in the Army and has experience on many different radar systems, including the Sentinel.

“It’s monumental for the Division to have the Sentinels providing air defense capabilities,” said Green. “Normally a division would be limited to merely having eyes on land force capabilities.”
Green explained that customarily, the division would perform air traffic control duties and the Sentinels would be operated at the battalion or brigade level. Having the Sentinel radar at the Division level enables radar information to be distributed in a more expedient manner, he said.

At the end of the day the knowledge Vajda, Green and the other members of the Air Missile Defense Team gained from exercises such as this one will be passed on to future participants in Operation Spartan Shield.

The 29th ID is presently deployed to in Central Asia and the Middle East in support of Operation Spartan Shield to preserves regional stability and prosperity. 29th ID provides division level command and control to prevent conflict, shape the environment and, when necessary, wins the Nation’s wars.

Written by By Sgt. Kelly Gary, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs

For more information about the 29th ID, contact CPT Scott E. Campbell, 29th Division Public Affairs Officer, at scott.e.campbell10.mil@mail.mil or DSN 318-480-1385