By Sgt. Robert Yde, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public AffairsJune 26, 2008
FORT HOOD, Texas - Ask Spc. Seth Eaton what he loves so much about being a fire support specialist and he has no problem rattling off a long list of responses.
"Everything - from the attitude to the appearance of it and all the knowledge that you have to know," the Cleveland native said recently. "It's more high speed than infantry, scouts, engineers - any combat MOS is nothing to us. We are the most physically in shape. We are the most knowledgeable of our job. We have the best appearance. We are the most professional. No one tops fisters."
Eaton, along with the rest of the fire support specialists and fire support noncommissioned officers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, had the chance to back up these words when they underwent their biannual recertification course June 9-13.
Every fister in the Army is required to recertify on certain job skills that they must possess; however, according to Staff Sgt. Alexander Johnson, who is assigned to Headquarters Company, 2nd BCT and helped oversee the course, each unit is given quite a bit of leeway on other skills they wish to train on and how they go about conducting the training.
"We tried to stay with the traditions of how we normally do fist certs. and blend it in with the new jobs that we have in Iraq," the Dallas native explained. "That's pretty much how we came up with those events and they're designed to test people as a team and test their physical strength and mental strength."
Johnson said that while the goal is to certify these Soldiers so they are qualified to call for rounds to be sent downrange, the course becomes more of a competition between the nearly 70 fisters who are spread throughout the Black Jack Brigade and are broken down into three and four man fire support teams and combat observation lasing teams.
While each individual Soldier had to demonstrate his proficiency in each task, events were scored on a team basis.
Among the events the 20 teams were graded on were a physical fitness test, a 12-mile ruck march, written exams, urban land navigation, room clearing, crater analysis and practicing calling for fire.
Johnson said that while many of these skills are job-specific to the fisters, others such as room clearing have been added to help prepare the Soldiers for jobs that they will likely be doing while in Iraq.
"We just try to acknowledge that it's possible that we're going to have different jobs," he explained, adding that during the last deployment most of the brigade's fisters served on personal security details for the brigade or battalion commanders and sergeant's major.
Johnson said that while the recertification course is just as important for the combat veterans as it is for the brand new privates, for the more experienced Soldiers most of this training is more of a refresher. For the newer Soldiers, however, some of this training is relatively new to them, and Johnson said he was particularly impressed with their willingness and desire to learn and master these skills.
"When it first got started, a lot of these guys didn't really know what to expect, but as it went on they turned what was really a test into a learning experience," he explained. "If they did something wrong they just kept hounding all the guys who have been doing this for a long time and just kept picking their brains to try to learn more and more.'
'We'd have to stay up late hours because a lot of these new guys just kept calling us on our cell phones wanting to come in and go over everything that they've already done so they could get better at it. This fist cert. built a lot of fire under those new guys and they're starting to get incorporated into just what a fister is.'"
Just what a fister is, Johnson said he cannot quiet define, but he said that the job has a way of changing the mindset of the people who perform it.
"To me, it does change people," he explained. "Everything that we do is a competition and the fister is always going to be the best. It's also about teamwork, and when you see a guy who always talks about himself at first, after awhile you notice that he always says we instead of I.'
'In this competition, you had guys that had skin coming off of their feet. Guys that just got done with surgeries, and all these guys, regardless of these things, they still wanted to compete. So I don't know where it comes from, but it's there. There's just a different kind of pride being a fister.'"