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Live fire training planned for Fort Carson unit this week

4th Combat Aviation Brigade trains at Pinon Canyon

Mission changing for Fort Carson aviation unit

LAS ANIMA COUNTY, Colo. - A 2,000-member Fort Carson unit is preparing for live fire training as part of a two-week exercise at its Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site.

The live fire training for the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, was scheduled for Thursday but was delayed until Friday because of fog and snow.

The brigade supports the division by setting up mobile bases and command posts, communications systems, medical services and operations for Apache, Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters.

In this training exercise, called Eagle Strike, the unit must fight a simulated enemy force while it trains for its normal responsibilities.

Col. Scott Gallaway, the brigade's commander, said it's the first time the entire unit has trained for so many objectives at the same time, and reflects a changing mission.

"The last 10 or 15 years, we've been operating more in a counterinsurgency environment -- smaller teams, higher altitudes," he said.  "Now, we're moving toward hybrid threats.  Tanks, air defense systems, enemy artillery, on a very large scale.  Our task is to fight and destroy that."

Gallaway said the brigade also is using drones, officially called the Gray Eagle Unmanned Aerial System, to fly the 150 miles from Fort Carson to Pinon Canyon.

"The Apache crews can see what the Gray Eagles see," he said.  "It makes us much more flexible and responsive." 

Lt. Col. Tim Jaeger said winter weather has made the training exercise more challenging.

"We have a weather team assigned to us," he said.  "It takes longer to warm up machinery.  So we make sure it's always ready to go."

The brigade deployed to Afghanistan last year but currently has no plans to redeploy.

"This training ends a hectic time for us," Gallaway said.  "We'll take a break after this and then get ready for a similar exercise this spring.  We're not training for a specific deployment, just for general readiness for situations anywhere in the world."

The exercise began on Feb. 12 and ends on March 1.

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