Iron Focus III
Soldiers from 1st Bn., 72nd Armor Regt. carry a mock casualty to the waiting crew chiefs of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during a simulated emergency casualty evacuation at the Twin Bridges Training Area.

The HMMWV engines roared and the Bradleys rumbled by as the convoy commenced for 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team's Iron Focus III Dec. 1-15.

Iron Focus III was an exercise evaluation for the 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion and 1st Battalion, 72nd Armor Regiment.

"My goals were to facilitate successful training of brigade staff, set-up and operation of the (Tactical Operation Center), and proper tear-down," said Sgt. Maj. Stanley D. Varner, operations sergeant major, 1st HBCT.

The harsh conditions of the Korean winter thoroughly put the Soldiers to the test.

"With the extreme condition of cold and lack of sleep, the Soldiers were able to establish and maintain communications with the unit throughout our battle space. They were able to establish the TOC in two different configurations while relocating to three locations," said Varner.

Observer/Controllers from the Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La. provided evaluation and feedback for the units participating in the exercise.

"We're here to put outside eyes on the units in the exercise," said Capt. Michael Westerhaus, JRTC, Senior O.C. who evaluated HHC, 1st BSTB, 1st HBCT. "We look at their operating system fundamentals."

Real-life experience helps the OCs to give a truly accurate assessment of the units' ability to react.

"Most of us have done the job we're evaluating, usually in combat, so we try to transfer some of the lessons we've learned to the unit," said Westerhaus.

Some Soldiers like Sgt. Steven Payne, training room NCO, 1st HCBT, had combat experience prior to coming to Korea and tried to teach younger Soldiers what they had learned.

"Soldiers gain insight from combat experience," said Payne. "Everybody is here to do their jobs and to pass on their knowledge."

The exercise also featured a variety of real-life scenarios. The opposition forces were played by Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 1st HBCT. Their constant training in small unit tactics helped them give a realistic opponent for the rest of the brigade to battle.

Another major highlight of the exercise was the mass casualty evacuation. Simulated casualties from the, 1st Bn., 72nd Armor, 1st HBCT, were airlifted to safety by a CH-47 Chinook helicopter.

Despite the high stress environment, unpredictability of opposition forces, and the extreme weather Varner said the exercise was successful.

"Overall, the Soldiers performed exceptionally well," he said.

"HHC and 1st BSTB troops are some of the best I've seen," said Westerhaus. "They've got strong leadership and it shows."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16