By Capt. Jodi Witt, 479th Engineer BattalionSeptember 18, 2013
During an unseasonably balmy July weekend at Fort Drum, N.Y., U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from the 479th Engineer Battalion, 411th Engineer Brigade, 412th Theater Engineer Command, utilized all available time to simultaneously train on counter mobility collective tasks and support a select group of Soldiers during their final validation process for selection to Air Assault School.
Although multiple planned events presented many challenges, the culmination of these actions not only provided Soldiers the opportunity to increase proficiency on mission essential tasks, but also afforded them the opportunity to achieve personal bests.
Planning for all these took multiple hours of preparation, requiring Soldiers to coordinate logistical and personnel requirements months in advance. The Battalion Training Team also played a pivotal role in developing and preparing for the battle assemblies.
"Excellent prior planning and coordination culminated in establishing and sustaining a high level of Soldier engagement in multiple training events," said Lt. Col. Reginald Truss, 479th Battalion Commander.
New equipment was also introduced during the exercise, further allowing Soldiers to train in a field environment.
"A Battalion TOC was established in the field, housed with the new Standardized Integrated Command Post System, where Soldiers familiarized themselves with the capabilities and amenities of the newly acquired equipment," said Truss.
Many staff members spent numerous hours planning and also took extra time and care in ensuring Soldiers had the prime opportunity to hone their basic skills.
"Numerous 'azimuth' meetings were conducted to ensure every responsible party was on track for the July events," said Truss.
The compressed time schedule of the weekend also added to the intensity of planning with a multitude of tasks to complete to ensure the field environment was suited for training.
"The greatest accomplishment for the July Battle Assembly was providing Soldiers with varying degrees of downrange experience," said Truss.
While staff elements were busy conducting their portion of the training, Soldiers from the battalion also participated in field exercises. They had the opportunity to train on counter mobility and collective tasks to include mine clearing and breaching operations and cratering charge operations.
"Soldiers received a better understanding of expectations associated with a route clearing mission, to involve live demolitions and Mine Clearing Line Charge operations, platoon leader sand table mission briefs, and pre-command checks and inspections," said Truss.
Soldiers took the initiative to learn about current operating procedures and had to rare opportunity to troubleshoot situations that arose during the field training exercise. For many troops, this was their time to see a live MCLIC rocket with a training line charge and the first time to see how a cratering charge was prepared and executed.
Not only were they all focused on practical field exercises, but a select 17 were simultaneously striving to achieve the highest marks possible during a validation process to secure their opportunity to attend Air Assault school at Fort Drum, NY.
"It was great to see those Air Assault candidates leave it on the field," said Truss.
"Those Soldiers were completely exhausted after completing an Army Physical Fitness Test, a 12-mile ruck march, and the Air Assault obstacle course all in one battle assembly."
The validation process included the Army Physical Fitness Test, twelve-mile road march, equipment inspection and obstacle course. This process required Soldiers to dedicate multiple hours outside of duty to train and to ensure they exceeded their optimal fitness standards in meeting all requirements to attend the course.
"I prepared for Air Assault School by doing a variety of things, to include foot marches which met Air Assault standards. I also did my normal running of five to ten miles every other day," said an Air Assault competitor from the 770th Engineer Company.
By participating in the validation process, Soldiers received a rare opportunity to improve physical fitness and practice for the first day of activities at the Air Assault school.
"When I completed the Air Assault Qualifier in July, I felt on top of the world. I felt great. However, I knew that I had much training to do before I attended the school," said an Air Assault competitor from the 770th Engineer Company.
Candidates for this validation process were volunteers chosen by their command teams and and a select number of Soldiers earned the opportunity to attend school next month.
The month of July was filled with training and personal accomplishments. It not only allowed the battalion time to improve operational readiness, but to provide its Soldiers the opportunity to hone their professional and personal skills.
"My advice to any Soldier coming off active duty or Reservist looking to join the 479th, is that they better bring two sets of PTs and ACUs to all battle assemblies. Our goal is to release our Soldiers at the end of BA trained, tired and dirty!" said Truss.