The exercise is the first of it's kind ever at Fort Richardson.

"The great thing about Operation Punch Bowl is that it's the first time that we are conducting a battalion level operation and battalion operation training," Lt. Col. Blake Lackey said. "Maneuver training, specifically a combined arms live fire where we will combine artillery, mortars and attack aviation. Also, some joint Air Force exercises with F-22s and F-35s."

Usually, a battalion does not get a chance to conduct this type of maneuver with live fire in a calendar year. Typically, it's only done once every two years.

"This is the first time here on Fort Richardson that a battalion will actually conduct a battalion combined live fire, ever," Lackey said. "That's a pretty interesting opportunity for us. It's something we've been driving towards for the last few months."

On January 25, two infantry battalions from the 1st Stryker Brigade combat team took part in Operation Arctic Thrust. The exercise was designed to test the deployment systems and validate the command's ability to rapidly deploy multiple battalion-sized force packages quickly. Soldiers were deployed by air, train and road from Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks to JBER in Anchorage.

"The Bobcat Battalion," Lt. Col. Blake Lackey said. "The Bobcats, around 700 of us, are all here in Anchorage in full force."

Tuesday's blank fire exercise featured the companies maneuvering on simulated enemy territory. The enemy force is about 15 soldiers with a replicated T-55 tank and replicated enemy mortar systems.  

"What's also important to note is the training for first responders," Lt. Chris Barber said. "They are getting in-field training, along with soldiers on the front lines, by providing emergency care to simulated casualties."

The overall objective of Operation Punch Bowl is to continue to build unit readiness while enabling the Bobcat battalion to focus on lethalities, specifically in Arctic conditions.

"Our soldiers, who will be working all through the day and all through the night, will have to manage the cold," Lackey said. "They'll have to manage the lack of heat and continue to take the fight to the enemy. It's to show the resiliency of our Bobcat soldiers as they continue to prepare and train for whatever the nation may call for." 

Friday's exercise will be a combined-arms live fire including artillery, mortars and attack aviation with some air force joint simulation.

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