In the heat of a New Mexican canyon, US Army 10th Mountain Division soldiers trained to secure a critical infrastructure facility as part of Vigilant Shield 18.
This exercise is one of the multiple scenarios under Vigilant Shield 18. It was designed to train soldiers to support local law enforcement in protecting a key site under short notice, focusing on cooperating with groups who are unfamiliar with military operations but need Army support.
"We've got that 24-hour response time - it doesn't matter that we're not an airborne unit. We're light infantry, we're a mountain division, and we can be anywhere in the world, and we've got to be ready for that," said Army Spc. Moses Negron, a rifle team leader with 10th Mountain Division, who deployed for the exercise.
The US Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Space Command sponsored the exercise that deployed about 100 soldiers from Fort Drum, New York,
"Out here in the desert and mountains, we're really putting different parts of our training together, working in small groups and bigger group with the civilian guard forces,” said Army Pfc. Daniel Chan, a machine gunner with the 10th Mountain Division.
Participants were deployed to the Mountain Village test site at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. While there, soldiers set up observation posts, patrols and ran security sweeps in a variety of scenarios that might occur in the real world.
An opposition was made up of White Sands personnel role-playing as radicalized guards, defending a secured facility in an environment rather different from the New York weather the soldiers were used to.
"This is something that puts us into a new location, takes us out of cold desolate Fort Drum and puts us in a new spot," said Capt. Andrew Boyle of the 10th Mountain Division. "It allows the soldiers to train in a desert atmosphere and apply some of those battle drills in something different."
The rapid deployment exercise was, much like the exercise itself, put together under a short period of time, only made worse by the Army North’s real-world commitment to disaster relief missions in Houston and Puerto Rico.
"It wasn't easy," said Lea Jones, a White Sands Missile Range operations officer. "There were a lot of moving parts and the exercise plan changed many times, but it's great to see it all come together in the end and see the soldiers taking part in a successful exercise."
The 10th Mountain Division soldiers are expected to continue the exercise through Nov. 9.