4th BCT prepares for battle
August 18, 2011
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- "This is phase line bravo, standby, over," 2nd Lt. Matthew Jadrnak said over his radio.
The leader of 3rd Platoon, Troop B, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, waited for a response inside the Humvee, where he held command over five other vehicles.
Suddenly the vehicle's gunner, Spc. Cory Kleypas, a cavalry scout with 3rd Platoon, saw something.
"Contact, truck," he said, his voice carrying down into the Humvee. "One o'clock, 100 meters."
In the distance a Soldier fired his .50-caliber machine gun at the truck seconds before Kleypas shot with the chugging sound of fire from his Mark 19 automatic grenade launcher.
This seems like a scene played out on some distant battlefield, but it was merely a mounted company training exercise on ranges 143 and 155 on Fort Carson, for 48 continuous hours Aug. 2-3, where the Soldiers of the 4th BCT's four mounted companies and troops completed training requirements for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.
During the exercise, units formed lines of gun trucks controlled at a company or troop level. Soldiers drove their trucks north, eliminating targets along the route. The training included dismount drills, where Soldiers left their vehicles to take out enemy positions on foot.
Soldiers from Company D, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Reg.; Company D, 2nd Bn., 12th Inf. Reg.; and Troops A and B from 3rd Sqdn., 61st Cav. Reg., participated in the exercise.
Capt. Erik McAndrews, the operations planner for the brigade, said this exercise was focused on a large-scale conflict, where multiple units would need to coordinate and maneuver to eliminate targets of equal size and strength.
"This type of training has been lost in the Army over the last few years," he said. "This is our first opportunity to get noncommissioned officers that have been in the Army for five, six years to get back in that old-school style of fighting that they haven't seen or been trained for and we want to make sure that this generation is ready to train the next one (in these tactics)."
McAndrews noted a training map, showing the Soldier's mission of stopping a simulated enemy force traveling from north to south, directly into the lines of the units training.
Today we have over nine lanes with Humvees," he said, adding that the exercise also featured, "mounted crew served weapons, large caliber weapons, maneuvering over large pieces of terrain freely and engaging targets along their path and utilizing Apache helicopters and artillery and mortars along their lane."
1st Lt. Benjamin Franklin, executive officer, Company D, 2nd Bn., 12th Inf. Reg., said that his company's mission was to develop a screen, or block, against the enemy so the rest of the 2nd Bn. could move behind them and complete their mission.
"We could be encountering a lot of resistance today," he said, prior to the start of the exercise. "(We're) probably (going to) have to fight through to gain some of our positions, to establish our screen line, but we are more than capable of doing it."
Jadrnak spoke about the training and his Soldiers during a lull in the simulated fighting.
"So far I'm really impressed with these guys," he said, referring to the Soldiers under his command. "They've trained really (well), and I expect good things from them when we deploy."
Jadrnak noted that U.S. forces may not always be fighting an insurgency, so there is still a need for basic military doctrine.
"Counterinsurgency is small tactics, clearing buildings, searching cordons," he said. "This (exercise) is large-scale, doctrinal-conventional warfare, basically tank-on-tank. It's a whole lot different from counterinsurgency. In counterinsurgency you got people that aren't in uniform, you don't know who they are, you don't know who the bad guys are. (You're) dealing with (improvised explosive devices) just the unexpected; but with conventional warfare it's kind of expected; you know they're going to use doctrine, you know what they're going to do."
McAndrews said the brigade exceeded its training objectives and that the unit was addressing its shortfalls.
"We're trying to bring people back to large-style conflict," he said.
"This is our certifying exercise for deployment to Afghanistan," he said. "Following this, we'll go into Afghanistan-specific training."
McAndrews said the Army does not anticipate this sort of large-scale conflict, but that it is important to be prepared.
"The past generation, (1980s, 1990s), came in and learned to fight this way," he said. "Our generation that came in (during) the early 2000s and beyond have not seen this type of training, and we want to ensure that, that generation is ready for that type of fight if it does occur."