10th Mountain Division Soldiers conquer 'Spartan Peak'
March 28, 2013
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FORT DRUM, N.Y. (March 28, 2013) -- With the first convoys rolling in from outlying ranges on Fort Drum, Spartan Peak came to a close Tuesday, ending eight days of high-intensity, round-the-clock combat training. "Spartan Peak" was the first of several major training events that 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Spartans," 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Soldiers will undergo in preparation for future combat operations.
All seven battalions that make up the Spartan Brigade participated in the exercise, with 40 platoons consisting of some 1,200 Soldiers conducting live-fire exercises using a wide array of weapon systems from M-4 rifles to artillery, of which more than 1,000 rounds were shot.
The "Six Shooters" of 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, provided close-combat support for Spartan Peak, said Capt. Jeff Burgett, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd BCT, who served as shift battle captain at the Spartan Tactical Operations Center, or TOC.
The main objective of the Spartan Peak exercise was to integrate the new Capability Set 13 communications system, known as CS 13, into brigade and battalion operations and to have platoons from each battalion complete live-fire exercises. For the Spartan TOC, integration tasks fell upon HHC, 3rd BCT.
The preparation that it took to bring Spartan Peak to a successful conclusion is complex, and the challenges that leaders had to overcome were daunting at times. Setting up a brigade-level headquarters and having all of its systems up and running and ready to support subordinate battalions presented among the biggest challenges during Spartan Peak.
"This was only our second time we have done this as a brigade headquarters," said Capt. Jaime D. Michel, commander of HHC, 3rd BCT. "We were competing with a timeline and new systems that various sections (of the brigade headquarters) were using to support subordinate battalions with such as the CS 13 system."
The weather also was an obstacle that Soldiers had to overcome. Freezing temperatures and unexpected snowfall tested Soldiers and equipment and made the roads that connected the training ranges nearly impassable at times, adding to the problems that had to be successfully negotiated through a combination of endurance and cooperative leadership.
"(It required) persistence in ensuring that the systems were providing the benefits that they were designed to provide," Michel said. "And quite frankly, it really was the [Noncommissioned Officer] Corps that was making all the fixes to the equipment; they are the action arm of the Army."
The weather also affected systems such as communications and targeting, where the accuracy of munitions delivery was critically important to the prevention of loss of life or equipment damage. Expert use of the systems ensured they did their job as designed.
"At the start of the event, the weather was degrading the ability of some of the systems we used to battle track," said Maj. Phillip J. Serpico, fire support officer in charge of the 3rd BCT Fires Cell. "Due to the ability of our system such as the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System, the 3rd BCT Fires Cell was able to help confirm and send out guidance to our formations. This ability allowed the unit as a group to have a safer event and act within the larger training guidance for the 3rd BCT."
The sustained intensity of Spartan Peak provided the units with training events alongside the live-fire exercises that ensured they experienced the demanding tempo as well as the variety of missions they can expect to experience while conducting sustained combat operations.
When they were not completing platoon combined arms live-fires, companies also conducted situational training exercises lanes that included urban terrain operations, attack and defense lanes, movement to contact, and foot marches, Burgett said.
Spartan Peak also offered experienced leaders an opportunity to share hard-earned experience -- lessons they had learned from previous deployments -- with Soldiers who were new to the Army or new to their positions.
"Prior to being a battle captain during my last deployment, I had no experience at the brigade level; it was a whole new problem set, lots of systems I had never seen before," Michel said. "I definitely learned a lot about operations at the brigade level and really being able to support units. I definitely shared those lessons with the current TOC staff."
In spite of the long hours, the weather and the tough, challenging training, Spartan Brigade Soldiers rose to the occasion and met those challenges head on with everyone -- even very seasoned leaders -- taking something away from the exercise.
"I have worked with our Army Battle Command Systems for almost 11 years, and every time I go to the field, I learn something new," Serpico said. "The system upgrades we have today allow us to give mission command to the battlefield over greater distances. The systems also allow us to reach out and pull information that normally would have to be built in two different systems. The overall capability allows our forces to be faster and more aware of the ever-changing battlefield."