Warrior Forge merges experience with potential
July 12, 2011
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash., (July 09, 2011) " Reserve Officer Training Corps Cadets from campuses across the country have descended upon JBLM for Warrior Forge 2011 and 104th Training Division Soldiers are ready for the challenge.
“Warrior Forge gives our Soldiers a chance to come out and be trainers,” explained Capt. John Garrison, 3rd Brigade, 4th Battalion, 518th Regiment, 104th Training Division (LT). “Training from scratch and getting out doing our job. That promotes feelings of pride in oneself, unit and team.”
Garrison is the officer in charge of the grenade lane at Warrior Forge, and for him, this exercise is a culmination of over 70 hours of instructor prep as well as an additional two site visits and reconnaissance missions conducted here from his home station in Alabama.
Five platoons a day roll through the lanes, and the lane is active eight hours a day for 36 days. That doesn’t count the two hours of set up in the morning and the one hour of clean-up at night.
Motivation is a key to success, according to Garrison.
“When they (the cadets) are motivated, their techniques are better,” he said. “When their techniques are better, they have more confidence and they earn higher scores.”
High scores and first-time go status are important to the cadets as they compete for national ranking and choice of branch affiliation and duty assignments.
Over at the first aid assault course, consistency is viewed as the key to success.
Named for Captain Sean Grimes, an ROTC graduate from Michigan State University who was commissioned into the United States Army Reserve as an Army nurse, the course is tough and demanding.
Killed in Iraq while serving as a physician’s assistant for 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment in 2005, Grimes made learning and leadership his personal goals. The instructors on the lanes are dedicated to his legacy.
“One-hundred seventy-three sub tasks in one day " in sequence " don’t leave anything out,” declared Lt. Col. Scott Sonsalla, professor of military science from the University of Texas, San Antonio. “The goal is to have everyone trained and performing consistently at the end of the day.”
Sonsalla and non-commissioned officer in charge Master Sgt. Scott Heise, senior military instructor from the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse, are fully qualified in the medical field and certify the lane, but the cadets take their direction from 104th Division Soldiers who went through validation with the medics back in April.
“The104th does all the set-up, clean-up, demonstration, etc.,” explained Sonsalla.
According to Heise, one of the more difficult things for the instructors to learn is the long list of medical terms needed to provide the integrity and realism to their classes.
Much like actors learn pages of dialogue for shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Combat Hospital,” Soldiers from the 104th practice complicated medical terms so that their classes flow easily and cadets don’t question their knowledge.
“Shoot for quality of instruction and clarity of language,” stated Heise.
The cadets go through a series of five stations where they learn to check for responsiveness, control hemorrhaging, maintain respiratory function, casualty transportation and medivac procedures. These stations, instruction and practice take place in the morning, with 104th Soldiers providing hands-on instruction to small groups of cadets. Testing is done in the afternoon.
Staff Sgt. Kris Norville, 2/379th Training Support Battalion considers it an honor to teach the Army’s future leaders.
“It feels good that they are stepping up and taking charge in their combat areas,” Norville said. “These cadets have the potential to lead me in combat someday.”
One of the biggest challenges facing Norville and his cadets is the issue of consistency mentioned by Sonsalla.
“Sometimes we need to reteach skills the cadets learned in other places,” explained Norville.
He went on to explain that first-aid skills are learned in a variety of different places - Red Cross classes, Combat Lifesaver courses, health class - and the cadets have varying levels of exposure and some have learned to do tasks in different sequences, which would have a negative effect on their scores.
Norville went on to reinforce that the 104th goes out of its way to ensure that the cadets are trained, practice and rehearse everything in the exact same manner they will be evaluated in.
“Other training and first-aid classes might not have lined up with the consistent way they are being validated on the lanes here,” Norville emphasized. “It is important for instructors to take this time to go over anything that might not have been clear and allow the cadets ample time to ask questions and get clarity on any point that might not be clear to them prior to testing.”
With the dedication and consistency of the 104th Training Division instructors and the motivation and hard work of these cadets, Warrior Forge is sure to be a major force in shaping the leadership potential of the Army’s up-and-coming officer corps.