Air assets add realism to training at Fort Leonard Wood
More than 100 Military Police trainees from Company A, 701st Military Police Battalion, waited on the tarmac at Forney Airfield the morning of Aug. 23 to be airlifted by helicopter to begin what’s called the “Forge,” a 96-hour, cumulative field-training exercise that puts week-seven trainees in a patrol base as they encounter a multitude of combat and logistical scenarios.
Not every trainee at Fort Leonard Wood gets a ride on an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter, but when they can, drill sergeants here said they like to add that element to the training experience.
“It’s fun for them while adding a bit of realism,” said Staff Sgt. Dylan Thillemann, the Alpha Company drill sergeant who coordinated the air support. “They get to ride in an aircraft and it’s more in line with some of the real-life scenarios they could encounter one day on a mission.”
Thillemann said one of his drill sergeant buddies in Delta Company, 795th Military Police Battalion, had previously contacted the Chinook unit for support.
“They had the Chinooks before for an FTX, and he pointed me in the right direction to coordinate for us to use the same assets,” Thillemann said. “I called on a Tuesday, we were good to go by Thursday — it was actually a very simple process. Apparently, they’re in a training cycle right now, and they said this actually helps with their training.”
The only other reminder, Thillemann said, was to give Forney Airfield’s operations office at least 24-hours’ notice of the arriving air support.
It’s an hour-and-a-half flight time here from New Century, Kansas, — a suburb of Kansas City — where the helicopters are assigned to Bravo Company, 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, an Army Reserve unit. Two Chinooks were brought in to move Alpha Company’s trainees this week.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Kyle Clark is one of the pilots who supported the MPs. He called it a win-win for everyone involved.
“They get to gain some familiarity with Army air capabilities and we get some good refresher training — it’s beneficial for all of us,” he said. “We love helping out with the mission here when we can. All of us were in that position at one point.”
As she waited to board a helicopter for the first time, Pfc. Cesilia Ovalle, from San Antonio, Texas, said she was “a little nervous, but also excited.”
“I’m afraid of heights, but I hope this will help me overcome that,” she said.
For 6’7” Spc. John Raadschelders, whose size earned him the nickname “Thanos” in his unit — after the comic-book and film character — the Chinooks were a nice addition.
“I’ve never ridden in a helicopter,” he said. “I love rollercoasters, so I’m pretty excited for this. It’s a nice way to kick off the Forge.”