Fort Bragg Pathfinders prepare for the call during hurricane season
September 3, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Imagine being stranded on the roof of your house as the flood waters continue to rise around you.
You've tried making repeated phone calls to the emergency services to no avail. The local authorities are swamped with millions of other people making the same call. Just when it feels that all hope is lost, help is spotted off in the distance, moving towards you in inflatable boats.
This help could be the Pathfinders from Company F, 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade.
"The primary purpose of our training here at Mott Lake is to make sure all of our waterborne operations equipment is operational in case of a natural disaster, such as a Hurricane Katrina type event, where we get called," said Capt. Kevin J. Stein, the company commander.
Nearly five years to the day after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, the Pathfinders set out to train on personnel extraction during their waterborne operations training at Mott Lake last week.
During their training, the Pathfinders got a chance to use and familiarize themselves with one of the most important part of their equipment - the Zodiac boat.
Zodiacs are inflatable boats the Pathfinders, as well as other military units, use for water movement operations, said Pfc. Carl J. Parsons, a native of Orlando, Fl., who serves as a rifleman with Co. F's, 2nd Platoon.
"The most important things the guys take away from this training is the familiarization with their equipment and all of the planning that goes with a waterborne operation," Stein said.
The platoon conducted a variety of tasks while at Mott Lake, to include swimming drills, motor mounting, boating movements and boat casting.
"This training is vital in maintaining our capability for natural disaster relief and maintaining proficiency in attacking and assaulting a beach," said Pfc. Adam G. Cichelli, a native of Frederick, Md., and a rifleman for 2nd Platoon.
Part of this vital training was a technique called boat casting. Boat casting is a movement technique that allows a person to quickly and quietly exit the Zodiac while it is still moving, Parsons said.
"My favorite part is boat casting out of the Zodiacs because it's cool how you just infiltrate a beach by rolling off the boat without being seen," Parsons explained.
The Pathfinders are one of the few units with Zodiac capabilities in the Army.
"If the flag goes up and Zodiacs are needed, it's probably going to be us," Stein said.
Aside from personnel extraction, the Pathfinders also practiced infantry waterborne operations.
"This training makes us more prepared for our mission," said Pfc. Chandler D. Stagg. "I think it's really helping quite a bit. It's helping familiarize us with assaulting beaches and making sure we can get in and get out of an area quickly and quietly."
Sergeant 1st Class Earl C. Owens, the company first sergeant, and a former Ranger instructor, oversaw his company's training while helping to establish the company standard operating procedures.
As a result of this training, Owens was able to critique his company's efforts as well as provide insight on correcting any deficiencies.
"The overall purpose of this training is to check our equipment for a waterborne infill and exfill for our company mission essential task list," Owens said.
Because of the ongoing hurricane season, the company has focused on personnel recovery and water familiarization while under duress.
"The hurricane season is going on right now and there's always a possibility the Pathfinders will be called upon to extract endangered personnel from a natural disaster that could strike," Owens said.
All in all, people should rest easier knowing the Army is taking the time to better prepare Soldiers for the possible catastrophe of a hurricane.