Soldiers strengthen combat skills during live-fire exercise
June 16, 2011
“Medic!” a Soldier screams from a trench. “Medic!”
A Soldier enters a small room. Two of his fellow Soldiers lay on the ground. They had unknowingly walked into a booby-trapped room.
In all, 1st Platoon had three “casualties” when they gained control of an enemy trench, but losing those lives taught valuable lessons for the infantrymen during their upcoming deployment next year.
Soldiers from 1st Platoon, C Company, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment participated in a live-fire exercise Friday and Saturday. They conducted three back-to-back missions during a 24-hour period, leaving little time for sleep. The entire battalion conducted similar training June 2-13.
During the morning mission, Soldiers used blank rounds to get them ready for the two live-fire missions Friday afternoon and the mission that took place late Friday night and into the early-morning hours on Saturday.
“(During the first) training exercise, we … were to take an objective that was heavily fortified by enemy forces,” said Sgt. German Isales, who is a mortar man. “It was my job to provide indirect fire to help the assaulting element to achieve the commander’s intent, which was to take and control the enemy’s fortified trench system. I think we did great. For the amount of practice time we had, I think we did outstanding.”
Staff Sgt. Alex Cary said the platoon has been training hard during the past four months.
“We’ve had a lot of new (Soldiers) coming in, so we’re getting them up-to-speed on what everyone else already knows,” he said. “These live-fire (exercises) are good. It gets us out here with all the guys and (so we can) learn what we need to do (in combat). I feel like I know all this stuff, but you always learn something new. I thought I did (the mission) pretty well, (but) I have a notebook full of stuff I have to fix (for the next exercises).”
During the after-action review for the first exercise, Capt. Kenneth Elgort, C Company commander; Lt. Col. Robert Ryan, battalion commander; and Command Sgt. Maj. Benny Dobbs, battalion sergeant major, talked to the Soldiers about the exercise.
Elgort emphasized he wanted all of the Soldiers to interact and voice their opinions and concerns.
“There were some things we need to tighten up to be more effective,” Elgort told his Soldiers. “That’s what the platoon live-fires are all about " improving as we go along. When we get to the culmination point " the night live-fire, the hardest one " we’ll have something. We’ll have a good product that we can walk away from and be proud about.”
Dobbs went over safety concerns he had, such as driving vehicles too fast along the range to prevent rollovers, caring for their weapons between exercises and caring for their bodies " eating and staying hydrated.
Ryan spoke about planning to engage the enemy, knowing the trench or terrain and leadership. He said if Soldiers tell their troops “where to be, what to do and for how long, your Soldiers won’t fail you.”
“(Having) awareness in combat (and) having a plan gets you there, (but) how you fight gets you to the end state,” he said. “That’s what this (exercise prepares you for).”
The live-fire exercises provided the platoon three rehearsals to prepare for combat, Ryan added.
The comments the platoon received from the leaders better prepared the unit for the last exercises, Isales said.
“(As a mortar man), the last thing (I) want is one of the enemies to pop of the trench and take out one of our guys,” he said. “My job is to get everyone home safely. If I have to stay outside the mortar truck (exposed) with my mortar tube, then that’s what I’m going to do.”