May 6, 2009

Fort Pickett hosts U.S., coalition forces for Patriot 7

By Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va.— U.S. Airmen and Soldiers alongside coalition forces from around the world, mostly security forces and special operations personnel, have been training at Fort Pickett as part of a program called Patriot Seven.

  Patriot 7

Senior Airman Harvey and his German counterpart observe the video being sent from an aircraft on the ROVER while preparing for an exercise during Patriot 7 at Fort Pickett Va.
(Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The six-day course, which wrapped up its 11th iteration April 24, is an Air Force-run exercise to teach personnel to view the ground through a remotely operated, video-enhanced receiver sent by a downlink feed from any aircraft equipped with video targeting pods, according to Lt. Col. Ben Votipka, a joint terminal attack controller instructor.

“This exercise is to teach people, in their missions, how to use that video downlink to have greater situational awareness about what is going on at the target area, en route to the target area, and as they are proceeding in and out of the target area,” said Votipka, a member of the North Carolina Air Guard.

Throughout the course the students learn how to operate the ROVER and have classes on maneuvers. They must set up a tactical operations center during the course and put their training to the test during several field training exercises. Students have come from all over the world to receive the training. There have been students from Germany, Canada, Poland, Australia, and the U.K., as well as several others.

The Students learn to view the battlespace before they enter so they can make informed decisions to how they will react to the situation before they enter it.

  Patriot 7

American and Canadian forces take cover behind a humvee and return fire during a simulated ambush as part of one of the field training exercises during Patriot 7 at Fort Pickett, Va. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

“They can know what is in the target area before they get there, so they can make a decision,” said Votipka. “They can safely go in there, execute the mission and get back home safely.”

“They need the visibility overhead to provide security and information and reconnaissance of areas before they are going to be moving in to,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Antonio Rodriguez, a Patriot Seven student. “It provides them capability to get the information and distribute it very quickly.”

The training they learn here at Fort Pickett may very likely be used to save their lives and the lives of other security forces, Special Forces operators, and Office of Special Investigation agents when applied to real life situations overseas in Iraq or Afghanistan.

“As the dynamics of Iraq and Afghanistan continue to evolve and things begin to escalate, it’s integral for operators, security forces, Airmen and OSI agents that go out to conduct their missions  to have capability like this," said Rodriguez, an Airman in the 12th Security Forces Squadron at Randolph Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas.

The location of Fort Pickett in regards to its proximity to Air Force bases, Navy bases and Virginia National Guard aviation facilities has proven beneficial to the program as well, according to Votipka.

"The best part about being located here is the access we have to so many flying units who are willing to help us out," said Votipka. "Our students are able to talk directly to pilots so they get top-notch, real-world experience. It also gives pilots a chance to work with folks on the ground the same way they might while they're deployed."

"People from all over want to come here and learn what we have to teach them," said Lt. Col. Greg Harbin, the training commander. "Irregular warfare training is vital to surviving attacks and conducting operations right now." 

The “Seven” in Patriot Seven refers to the seven OSI agents and security force Airmen who were killed in an attack overseas. That attack is what sparked the creation of the Patriot Seven program.

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