FORT POLK, La. -- Preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, Soldiers from Company A, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat team, 10th Mountain Division, honed their infantry skills and built cohesiveness during a team live-fire exercise on Fort Polk's Range 16A Aug. 25.

The "Apache" Company infantrymen are part of the "Patriot Brigade" that is deploying to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan later this fall. Completing both day and night live-fire lanes, the Soldiers realize that this type of teambuilding will be critical to their success during the OEF deployment.

Spc. Russell Polzine, an "Apache" Company team leader, said although he hasn't been on the job too long, the LFX gave him yet another opportunity to figure out his team and how they operate. As a team leader, it is important for Polzine to assure his team gels, and he said they did just that during the LFX.

"We went down the lanes a total of five times. The first time we saw things we could tweak and make better as a fire team," said Polzine. "During the second dry run we went through and picked up the pace. We were able to react to contact a little bit better."

The fire lane consisted of two targets at different distances. As a fire team, the Soldiers advanced using a series of bounding maneuvers to engage the targets. Soldiers' knowledge of the terrain in which they are maneuvering is key in using selected bounding techniques and getting to their objective.

"The first target was within 50 meters for both day and night iterations," said Pvt. Nicholas Nolan. "Our first engagement, there really wasn't much cover. After we engaged the second target, there was a nasty area with ditches covered with high grass to take cover in."

Fire teams negotiating the lanes positioned two Soldiers on the left and right sides of the lane. To bound toward the objectives, Soldiers practiced proper communication techniques, including hand-and-arm signals and verbal commands. As the day progressed, so did the ease of communications within the teams.

"At first, our communication was rusty because we are a new team. Every run after that, we got subsequently better," said Pvt. Ryan Watkins. "We have to learn our team leader; we have to learn off of him and he has to learn off of us."

In addition to hand-and-arm signals and verbal communication, the teams had other cues to let them know when to move and cover movements. Nolan said that before his team even started to negotiate the lane, his team leader gave them an idea of what to do. When they engaged enemies, one buddy team would bound forward while the other buddy team fired rounds. "As soon as you heard the rounds, you knew it was your turn to go," explained Nolan.

"As a team leader, I was able to control my team and knew exactly how to react to fire, bring them up on line and start bounding them," said Polzine. "They worked together pretty good, to be a brand new team.

"What we're trying to do is get them to where reacting to contact becomes second nature," Polzine continued. "That way they will not hesitate; they just react."
The night iterations followed the same patterns for the team LFX. However, having to wear night vision goggles and adjust to how the terrain appeared at night offered the Soldiers valuable experience.

"Night training brings a whole new aspect -- with the lasers," said Watkins. You can't aim down the sights on your M4 rifle. We have to use the lasers to actually get on target."
For the first time while training, the Apache Company infantrymen wore newly issued multi-cam gear. The Soldiers had high praise for the new gear, which they will wear on missions downrange in Afghanistan.

"For me, the actual movement and shooting with the improved outer tactical vest was easier than with the interceptor body armor," said Watkins.
With this live-fire training, the Soldiers received a better understanding of where they and their teams are as they prepare to enter combat.

"I have plenty of confidence in my team," said Polzine. "Given the training we've been doing to build up to this -- going through the box and coming back to the rear and doing our hip-pocket training - I feel very confident; and feel ready for Afghanistan."

Page last updated Mon September 20th, 2010 at 16:08