Typically, Patriot missile systems deploy around sensitive US installations overseas, providing defense against aircraft, drones and even missiles. So what was one doing in a rural Texas airfield?
According to The Drive’s The War Zone, the anti-air missile battery was recently spotted at Easterwood Airport in College Station, Texas, with roughly 300 US Army soldiers but without explanation, shutting down one of the landing strips with their sprawling setup.
"Nobody knows anything, they just showed up,” one commercial pilot who regularly uses the airfield told The War Zone. Other folks at the airport had about the same amount of information.
Eventually, the outlet figured out the unit was from Fort Hood, an Army installation about 85 miles to the northwest, and had deployed to College Station as part of a drill that simulates quickly deploying to a combat situation overseas. They reportedly ran through everything they normally would if it were a combat situation, except that no actual missiles were flying. The War Zone also noted that Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadets at nearby Texas A&M University would get to come see how an active-duty unit does its job in the field.
However, US military equipment at Easterwood isn’t unusual, either. Earlier this month, the airport’s Twitter account posted photos of US Air Force F-16 Falcon interceptors parked on the tarmac for a flyover at an upcoming Texas A&M football game.
We’re game day ready🏈📸✈️ pic.twitter.com/mJ4H8H3AhS— Easterwood Airport (@flyeasterwood) October 9, 2020
The US military deploying on US soil for training purposes isn’t unknown. Perhaps the most notorious - and egregious - example is the fictional liberation war would-be Green Berets pretend to wage in defense of the “Republic of Pineland” in rural North Carolina as part of their graduation exams. The mock war involves local civilians who play roles that can help or hinder the special forces students, who come from nearby Fort Bragg.
However, practicing quick deployments of air defense systems isn’t limited to US soil, either. In April 2019, the US Army dispatched a battery of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems to Israel with little advance notice.