FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team 'Rakkasans', 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), recently wrapped up a ten-day training exercise here March 17, 2014.
The Leader Battalion Field Training Exercise consisted of a series of platoon-level training events including security forces training, situational training, live fire events and integration of indirect fire and close air support. The training was designed to evaluate the unit's lethal platoons on a variety of collective tasks in preparation for Operation Golden Eagle and the Brigade's scheduled rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center.
"Our FTX was designed to build lethal platoons," said Lt. Col. Marc Cloutier, the battalion commander for 1-187. "They trained in mounted and dismounted react to contacts, and attacks, under both day and night conditions. Additionally, our FTX trained our mission command systems, our logistics functions, as well as our medical capabilities."
The training stretched across a wide area encompassing several different ranges to offer unique challenges to the training audience.
"I think what makes this training a little more unique and a little more challenging, is that instead of just doing a platoon live fire or instead of doing a platoon STX (Situational Training Exercise) lane, what we're doing is integrating it and making it a full ten-day FTX where platoons are going from one mission to the next with limited windows to do their TLPs (Troop Leading Procedures) and planning," said Capt. Jim Higgins, the assistant plans officer for the battalion.
"So what it's doing is stressing the systems to make sure the leadership itself knows how to do proper TLPs and planning and time management as well as at the battalion level for mission command."
In addition to the challenges the Soldiers faced on the simulated battlefield, there were several unique assets of the training.
One of the challenges the Soldiers faced was using a new communications system known as Capability Set 13 that offers the unit a greater ability to command and control the assets on the ground. In addition, it allows commanders and Soldiers using the system greater situational awareness of the battlespace around them, all of which requires a different approach to established doctrine.
"We have a new suite of communications architecture called Capability Set 13, which changes some of the doctrine that those of us that remember expeditionary warfare recall," said Cloutier. "We remember it one way and these technology leaps cause us to change and question the way we remember it."
The unit also had the chance to integrate engineer assets into the exercise from the soon to be stood up 21st Brigade Engineer Battalion.
"We have a sapper platoon from the BEB and each company has its habitually aligned sapper squad that we're starting to integrate and working together to develop a relationship," Cloutier said.
The experience was unique for the Soldiers from the BEB as well.
"Weve been out here attached to alpha company for five days and we've been doing Combat Outpost defense as well as urban training while also giving classes to the infantry Soldiers on how to properly utilize combat engineers in COP defense and urban environments," said Staff Sgt. Spencer Palmer, a combat engineer with the 21st BEB.
The concept of defensive positions was another unique experience for the Soldiers during the exercise.
"Every company has a command post here in the training area," Cloutier said. "They'll rotate to the security force protecting that command post and that ties into some of our defensive planning. It's a capability we haven't done in a long time, a real deliberate engagement area development and defense of a battle position."
Despite the long hours and temperatures that ranged from the teens to the mid 70s, the mud and the physical demands of intense training the Soldiers gave their all during the event.
"The Soldiers that are out here are motivated to learn and train," said Higgins. "You can see them grow right in front of you as a team and as individuals as they yearn to get better."
The final event of the training that tied together all of the skills learned was a battalion-sized Air Assault that moved more than 350 Soldiers and multiple sling loads to conduct an attack on an urbanized area.
"The Air Assault went very well," Cloutier said. "We're learning from the private at the forward edge to myself and everyone in between. We're learning quite a bit about ourselves, our capabilities and where we need to be in the future."
Up next for the Soldiers of Leader Battalion is a three-day Brigade Walk and Shoot Combined Arms Live Fire exercise, rehearsals for the Brigade Air Assault, Operation Golden Eagle, and a rotation to the Joint Readiness Training Center.