Artillery crewmen change to personal security
November 16, 2011
FORT IRWIN, Calif. -- As the convoy of gun trucks prepares to roll through the entry control point of Forward Operating Base "Denver," Staff Sgt. Tim Bruining calls up to his gunner, "Hey, Osorio -- did you remember to CLP that 240 this morning?"
"Roger, sergeant, it's good to go," says Spc. Randy Osorio-Bellon, a human resources specialist from Oiza, Puerto Rico.
"Good man, that's what I wanted to hear. You're truly the most 'special' of my forces," jokes Bruining before adding, "Watch our backs. I think they're gonna try to kill us today."
Though all the enemy forces they may face today are role players and all combat wounds would be simulated, Bruining takes his work seriously.
Bruining, a former artillery crewman from Lakewood, Calif. leads the 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment's personal security detachment, overseeing the training of the PSD during his unit's rotation at the National Training Center.
The PSD is tasked with providing protection wherever the battalion's commander, Lt. Col. Kolin Bernardino goes to conduct business. Whether it's visiting civilian facilities to assess their needs, or meetings with local leaders, the PSD is a security presence to protect the commander, those he's meeting with and any nearby civilians.
Where other battalions in the brigade have scouts or infantrymen assigned to a PSD, 2nd Bn., 17th FA's is one with a unique mix of military occupational specialties.
"Some of us were recommended for PSD by our NCOs [noncommissioned officers], some volunteered. You need to be able to pick up stuff, learn things pretty quickly," said Pfc. Luis Reyes, who came from an artillery fire direction control section.
"We're placed in charge of convoy security operations, getting to our destination safely, so our training has been concentrated on learning things like reacting to contact and sending up reports if we take casualties or run into suspected IEDs [improvised explosive devices]," said Reyes, a native of Miami, Fla.
This battalion's PSD came together out of necessity for the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division's rotation to the NTC. Starting out as one Stryker crew, the team has grown to almost 20 Soldiers.
Through all of the NTC training scenarios, these Soldiers are gaining much-needed training to prepare for situations they may face during deployment.
One member of the team is always assigned to remain with the commander. For a mission to an urban site called Medina Jabal, it is Spc. Matthew Thomas, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist from Kennett, Mo.
"We're training to protect our commander, any additional personnel, through whatever situation we find ourselves in. That comes with making sure your situational awareness is on point -- you're always looking at windows, rooftops, constantly scanning and on the lookout for snipers," said Thomas, a voluntary member of the PSD.
"We try not to interact too much with the locals that may be walking around. It takes your focus from the job at hand."
"Most of the team is 13-series MOS; artillery guys, but volunteers came from everywhere," said Pvt. Wesley Taggart, a combat medic from Homedale, Idaho.
When a training bomb detonates nearby, Taggart and another PSD medic, Spc. Michael Torrente rush to aid those playing the role of injured civilians.
Aside from having two medics, the PSD also has specialists that ensure the team always has communications ability.
Handling all of the team's commo is Sgt. Jon Pierre Meyer from Baton Rouge, La.
A former aviation electronics instrument tech for the Marine Corps, Meyer has been in the Stryker crew assigned to the PSD for a few months.
"This PSD has only been with its current manning for a few weeks, but with time we'll get to where we need to be. We're identifying everyone's strong points as well as taking a hard look at where we'll need improvement. I see us getting better every day, so it's coming along well," Meyer said.
When the mission takes Bernardoni to meet with provincial reconstruction teams at another town, the PSD spends an hour securing the areas surrounding a building. They take up a protective posture, positioning to observe activity in every direction and communicating with one another constantly.
The meeting goes off without incident, as does the following street-side interview with a local news team camera crew.
Getting the commander safely back to FOB Denver has made the day's mission a success, and the PSD makes the necessary preparations for the next one.