Platoons from 1-23 Infantry BN take on grueling mission at Yakima
May 27, 2011
YAKIMA TRAINING CENTER, Wash. - The wind whipped through the hillside with a bone-chilling cold, blowing dust in the faces of the Soldiers from 2nd Platoon Blackhawk Company as they received the operation order for their upcoming mission. 2nd Platoon would be making a 20- to 25-kilometer dismounted movement over rocky, uneven mountainous terrain to assault several objectives. With the operation slated to begin within a few hours the platoon was given the order to get what rest they could while still pulling guard on their position.
The call came in over the radios at around 1 a.m. that 2nd Platoon would be moving out soon. The unit sprang to life as the Stryker fighting vehicles were fired up and equipment checks were performed. Preparations for the upcoming mission were completed as the platoon drew their ammo and stripped their packs down to just the necessary equipment. The sun broke over the horizon as 2nd Platoon started their movement at the designated starting point carrying water, food, ammo, weapons and the other necessary tools to complete their mission.
All the pain staking preparation was just the beginning for platoon evaluations, which include a dismounted movement to assault an objective, followed by mounted movement and maneuvering to clear an urban assault course.
First Battalion, 23 Regiment, which is part of 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, conducted platoon evaluations between 23 and 24 May at Yakima Training Center in preparation for their National Training Center trip in August.
“The platoon evaluations are where they move at least 20 kilometers over uneven and mountainous terrain, hitting at least three objectives,” said Capt. Benjamin Meier, commander of Blackhawk Co., 1st Bn. 23rd Regiment, with 3rd B 2nd Inf. Div. “On their return they will mount up in the Stryker fighting vehicle and conduct a two hour mounted movement where they will have to conduct an assault at the urban assault course.”
During the movement the platoons will have to conduct vehicle recovery, casualty evacuation and complete their mission said Meier.
“This is empowering, allowing the individual Soldiers and noncommissioned officers to choose their route and terrain to go over,” said Lt. Col. Wilson Rutherford, commander of 1st Bn. 23rd Inf. Regt..
The overall movement with no rest and a high operation tempo is an important step in “testing their ability to function across a broad spectrum of tasks,” said Meier.
In preparation for the platoon evaluations Blackhawk Co. went through weeks of training prior to their field training exercise.
Spc. Thomas Babler, the medium machine gunner for 2nd platoon, explained that the platoon had been pushing themselves a lot more using dismounted movements. Working more dismounted and less with the Stryker gives the team a new aspect on fighting.
“They have been working really hard at their dismounted movement,” said Meier, "including 12- and 18-mile ruck marches with heavy weight.”
The Soldiers ruck marched across terrain that is barely navigable and brutal on the body, pushing pain and endurance thresholds to the limit.
“The best way to get around these little pains and stuff is to stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about the mission or the guys,” said Sgt. Alexander Brown a squad leader in 2nd Platoon.
Rutherford explained how stressful the movement would be and the pride that the soldiers would have upon completion.
Once they finish “They realized that they did do it and can do it, and can push themselves to do it,” said Rutherford “You see a lot of smiles once they get done.”
After about eight miles of marching across a wilderness of, ankle breaking rocks and scrub brush, 2nd Platoon reached their first objective. The enemy compound was atop a hill with security on all sides. Tired and low on water, 2nd Platoon assaulted the compound breaching the wire fortifications. They searched the enemy for intelligence and the area for weapons caches. Only half way through the dismounted portion of the overall mission they still had to assault two more objectives and continue with a mounted movement to the urban assault course. With no rest and several missions to complete the next 24 hours would test the very limits of the soldiers.