The moments in between: 3-2 SBCT Soldiers raise spirits amid downtime during training
May 26, 2011
YAKIMA TRAINING CENTER, Wash. - "Like a burrito!" Spc. Gerald Lacy shouts with joy as he throws his hands carelessly into the air.
Without missing a beat, every one of his comrades within earshot echoes his words as they all rejoice in folding up a tent shelter once attached to their Stryker fighting vehicle.
Their words are goofy, frivolous, and maybe a little crazy, but they're just what it takes to turn a mundane task into a time of merriment during an 18-day training exercise from May 17 to June 7 at Yakima Training Center in Central Washington State, where work is plentiful, sleep is hard to come by, and the brief moments of downtime become moments of clown time for those who use them wisely.
"Training is what you make of it," said Sgt. Rafael Rosario, the platoon sergeant for Headquarters Platoon, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, an asset of 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. "If you're going to make it stressful, you're going to be stressed."
"We clown around every chance we get," added the Miami, Fla., native, speaking of himself and the seven Soldiers he supervises, who, together, track every asset of their 100-person company and every minute of its training.
"We basically facilitate the training," Rosario said.
Rosario and his group constantly monitor the location, time and substance of their company's training. They track which of the company's 23 vehicles need maintenance or repairs and coordinate for the company's chow, medical evacuations and fuel supply. They also transport the company's leadership all across the installation's training grounds.
"Our sole job is to make sure we know exactly where each platoon is and at what time," Rosario said. "We have to keep control of a lot of moving pieces."
Putting in 18-hour days " if they're lucky " makes them likely candidates for stress and puts them at high risk for low motivation. But just when the dam is about to break, the jokes begin to flow.
"What a lot of people don't realize is that morale is everything," said Lacy, a driver for the platoon and a native of Lewisville, Tenn. "If you don't have morale, you have nothing."
At this particular moment in time, on day seven of their exercise, morale comes in the form of an Arnold Schwarzenegger impression.
Lacy and the rest of the crew are packing up their gear and heading to a new location on the other side of the sprawling training center.
Lacy lays down a quick, deep-throated outburst of spot-on Schwarzenegger imitations as two of his comrades roll on their sides across the tent and collide with one another.
One of those two, Spc. Paul Malcolm, deals with the few less serious times during their daily routine in much the same manner as Lacy.
"It's times like this when you're just breaking stuff down that you have to keep that energy
alive," he said.
Malcolm, a 21-year-old from Clarksville, Md., who says he's always been an entertainer, often takes it upon himself to lift the spirits of those around him when it's clear that motivation is lacking.
"You have people wandering around sometimes who are just not motivated at all, and they're just really bummed that they're out here," he said. "I notice these things, and I have the ability to come out of that Soldier shell and just do something crazy random, and get that smile back on their faces."
"It puts them back on their feet," he added.
Malcolm and Lacy represent the majority of Soldiers at Yakima currently engaged in the same training; a brigade-wide exercise of full-spectrum operations that uses a novel approach and combines all types and forms of warfare in preparation for any possible future enemy.
The training is preparing 3-2 SBCT for its upcoming rotation in August to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., so it has to be rigorous.
Here, there are no showers, just moist towelettes and cloth wipes. There are no beds, just the ground or the bench of a Stryker. There's no family, or at least when it comes to blood.
"The next best thing you have is the guys who work with you day in and day out," Rosario said, alluding to the Soldiers who continually find ways to make him laugh.
But the humor is like a switch, says their first sergeant, 1st Sgt. Loalafi Sagiao.
"When it's time to ramp up and move out, they get pretty serious," he said.
Rosario echoes that sentiment.
"When push comes to shove, we get the job done," he said.
"That's what it comes down to," he added. "At the end of the day, we get the job done."