The 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team “Old Hickory” arrives at NTC

By Sgt. 1st Class Robert Jordan | North Carolina National Guard Public Affairs | July 8, 2019

FORT IRWIN, Calif. —

The North Carolina National Guard's (NCNG) 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT) deployed to National Training Center (NTC) Fort Irwin, California for Operation Hickory Sting in late June, 2019. The over 4,200 ABCT Soldiers will participate in a grueling test of endurance and "near-real" combat against a high-tech, cunning, and agile enemy force preparing them for deployment overseas later this fall.

“National Training Center is extremely important, we are ready, we are going overseas and need to be prepared for anything that comes along,” said NCNG Maj. Michael Pilotte, an operations officer assigned to the 252nd Armored Regiment, 30th ABCT.

“Old Hickory” consists seven battalions of Soldiers and material from the NCNG (which has four of the seven battalions) and three other National Guard states; West Virginia, South Carolina and Ohio. All flew in via charter and commercial flights from airports nationwide. From maintenance and railyard depots across the country hundreds of rail cars ship the nearly 350 armored vehicles and more than 1,500 other wheeled vehicles needed for the deployment to NTC throughout May and in the last weeks of June with firepower equal to some small countries.

The ABCT, combines the offensive punch of armor, infantry and field artillery with the skills and precision of engineers, military intelligence and logistics experts making the unit able to mobilize and deploy for offensive, defensive or stability operations anywhere in the world.

Moldova, a longtime State Partnership Program member with the NCNG, deployed over 100 Soldiers to serve alongside the ABCT during the NTC training. The Moldovans will serve as scouts being the eyes of the ABCT during the exercise. Last year the Moldovan Army came to Ft. Bliss Texas for three weeks and trained side by side with the ABCT in similar conditions.

"This is our second time training in this type of scenario with the 30th and it is a great opportunity for my fellow Soldiers,” said Moldovan Army Maj. Alexandr Procopciuc. “To train with the 30th ABCT will be hard and difficult but we are up to the challenge."

The 30th’s opponent is OPFOR, or Opposing Force. They are Army peers who mimic weapons and tactics of the most current real-world threats. These are some of the most practiced and drilled Soldiers in the Army, fighting on their home turf.

"It is pretty exciting with realistic missions and combat scenarios. It’s the culmination of what we do," said NCNG Spc. Paul Quinichett, a M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzer driver, assigned to A Battery, 1-113th Field Artillery Regiment, 30th ABCT.

The fighting will consist of simulated “Force on Force” combat with the multiple integrated laser engagement system or MILES. MILES uses a system of blanks, sensors and lasers on soldiers and weapons from the individual Soldiers' M4 Carbine to the largest Abrams Tank cannon.

Leaders of the ABCT planed, updated and refined operations orders to the thousands of Soldiers at the bivouac area at the edge of the base near the training area.

There is a constant rumble of engines as each vehicle is checked and rechecked for the upcoming hard, realistic training within the hundreds of square miles of ranges and valleys that is NTC. Soldiers walk in front of each vehicle leading it to its staging area. Drivers concentrated on the hand signals of Soldiers on the ground guiding the 60 plus-ton tanks or other armored vehicles in to position.

Noncommissioned officers teach and lead teams of Soldiers as they prepare for the upcoming training. Weapons are issued, training schedules refined and tactics and battle drills practiced and practiced again.

Support troops repair and refuel vehicles, maintain advanced equipment and provide the life support for the thousands of “Old Hickory” Soldiers who will soon be roaming the ranges in search of OPFOR. Culinary specialists prepare hot meals of favorites including freshly grilled hamburgers and hotdogs. Other meals consist of Meals Ready to Eat, packaged rations in sealed bags that provide perhaps not the flavor, but all the nutrition needed.

"If you can't sustain the Soldier, you can't continue the fight," said NCNG Sgt. 1st Class Semra Leary, a culinary management noncommissioned officer assigned to F Company, 230th Brigade Support Battalion, 30th ABCT.

The life support and fuel, both for machines and Soldiers, will be needed, the training will be 24-hours a day for over 20 days in temperatures forecasted to exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit at the highest.

Whether the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team defeats or loses to OPFOR, the most important mission is learning and honing combat skills to the highest lethality possible. Learning how to respond to the tactics of possible enemies, how to solve the inevitable problems of moving thousands of Soldiers and hundreds of vehicles across hostile terrain and how the Soldiers and leaders, men and women of “Old Hickory” will respond as a unit and as an individual, under stressful conditions.

“Old Hickory Soldiers lead the way, we are going to make our states and nation proud and we will be ready to stand and fight,” said Pilotte