Fort Lewis Soldiers harness new skills
July 6, 2009
FORT POLK, La. -- An infantryman's long education isn't over when he graduates from his One Station Unit Training. There are a multitude of special skills unique to certain units that must be learned and practiced.
For Pvt. Corey Fowler of F Company, 52nd Infantry Regiment, a Stryker infantry unit trained and outfitted for anti-armor combat, the continued education took form on a training range at the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division's, rotation through Fort Polk's Joint Readiness Training Center in June.
The company fired tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided missiles from launchers installed onto their Stryker vehicles. The TOW missiles stand about five feet high and must be loaded into the launcher by hand, a job Fowler performed for the first time during the exercise.
"Would you believe I'd never done that before today'" he asked, after hefting a TOW missile over his head and guiding it expertly into the launching tube mounted to the top of a Stryker.
Fowler arrived at the unit in April and is the newest member of the anti-armor company.
Fowler said the relatively small size of the unit seems to have a positive effect on his training as an infantryman. It's also contributed to the high level of trust and friendship that Fowler believes makes the unit strong.
"I love everybody in the platoon. We're real small, but we work tight. We have to," Fowler said, "Ask anybody on my team to do anything. We all know each other's jobs and are ready for anything."
The high expectations he faces and the steep learning curve have also given Fowler the rapid train-up he needs for the brigade's upcoming deployment to Iraq in the fall.
"This is my first day loading the TOW, and tomorrow they'll start me on driver's training. You really have to learn fast here," Fowler said. "But it's good for you."
Even with new blood in the platoon, Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Gomez, platoon sergeant for 1st Platoon, F Co., is confident in the unit's ability to perform at full capacity in Iraq.
"We have a pretty seasoned crew. With the training we've done in the 15 months since our last deployment, everybody is up on their skills," said Gomez.
With his education under way, Fowler is confident, not only about the upcoming deployment or his future with the unit, but his choice to enlist as an infantryman.
"I always knew, ever since I was a kid, that I was going to be in the Army," Fowler said. "And I always knew it would be as an infantryman."
(Pfc. Victor Ayala is assigned to the 49th Public Affairs Detachment. This story appeared in Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.)