By Susanne Kappler, Fort Jackson LeaderJuly 22, 2008
Soldiers who start Basic Combat Training usually know that training requires them to push themselves to the edge physically.
However, the most dangerous training they will undergo during their 10 weeks in BCT does not involve running, sit-ups or push-ups. At the Remagen Hand Grenade Range, Soldiers learn the proper technique of throwing M-67 hand grenades -- lethal weapons that detonate within three to five seconds after being activated.
"The importance of hand-grenade training for our Initial Entry Training Soldiers and their ability to effectively employ hand grenades is as vital and relevant a war-fighting skill as any they need to possess in the contemporary operating environment," said Capt. Hugh Perry, commander of Company D, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, whose company trained at Remagen Monday.
Instructors at the range must undergo 10 days of certification, concluding in a hands-on and a written test. In addition, instructors must be recertified every six months to remain qualified to teach.
"We try to teach them to be comfortable with the weapon. We tell them it's like throwing a ball," said Staff Sgt. Ruben Delvalle, range instructor.
The training is divided into three phases.
First, Soldiers receive classroom instruction. They are shown how to wear their protective gear, how to hold the grenade, what steps are involved in arming and throwing the grenade and how to react in case of a mishap.
After that, the Soldiers move on to the four practice bays where they get to throw practice grenades under the guidance of the instructors. Soldiers who cannot throw very far or who are extremely nervous are given special attention.
"We have to be extra cautious with these Soldiers, because an incident is a lot more likely than with regular throwers," said Staff Sgt. Phillip White, range instructor.
After the Soldiers have had the required practice, they advance to the live range, where they get to throw two live grenades, which is a requirement to graduate from BCT.
While hand grenade qualification is a required aspect of BCT, mission requirements do not get in the way of safety precautions at the range.
"We've had a lot of close encounters. This is the most dangerous range." Delvalle said. Delvalle was involved in a close call last year when a Soldier dropped a live grenade in the bay. The instructor threw the Soldier over the bay wall and headed to safety before the grenade exploded. The incident did not result in any injuries.
To prevent such mishaps, some Soldiers who have injury profiles are not allowed to take hand-grenade training until their medical condition improves. In addition, Soldiers at Remagen are not disciplined with extra push-ups or other methods that affect the Soldiers' upper body strength.
Soldiers who complete the training walk away with more than just a new technique in their warrior arsenal.
"Soldiers gain instant confidence when they see their own ability to employ a very lethal weapon and do it safely," Perry said. "The Soldiers that looked most apprehensive prior to stepping onto the range were the same ones saying they wished they had the opportunity to throw more than two live grenades once the training was complete."