By Sgt. Cody Barber, 11th Public Affairs DetachmentJune 17, 2014
CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo (June 12, 2014) -- Noise was their enemy and silence was their ally as Soldiers tested during the Excellence in Cavalry competition held at Camp Bondsteel, which tested them on their knowledge of their cavalry occupational specialty, June 10-12.
The three-day event had Soldiers from 2nd Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment, running steep hills, calling for simulated artillery fire, and using camouflage to blend into the surrounding vegetation, as they tested their proficiency in cavalry scout skills.
"[The purpose is] to evaluate their [basic] skill level reconnaissance tasks and to make sure they have maintained those skills," said 1st Sgt. Lanny McLaughlin, senior enlisted advisor for 2-38 Cav. Regt.'s Alpha Troop. "It also measures their physical fitness, shooting capabilities and their basic cavalry knowledge."
On the first day, Soldiers from the Phantom Recon squadron took an Army Physical Fitness Test and had to achieve the 90th percentile in each event to qualify for the EIC. They also completed a timed land navigation course and performed basic maintenance and function checks of multiple crew-served weapons.
"They were tested on the .50-Caliber and 240B machine guns, M4 rifle, 40mm grenade launcher and the long-range advanced scout surveillance system," said McLaughlin, a Nogales, Ariz. native.
The Soldiers started the second day with a four-mile run, which they had to finish in less than 36 minutes. They also completed dismounted movement techniques, qualified at a M4 rifle range, established a helicopter landing zone and conducted a MEDEVAC.
For the final day of the event, Soldiers threw on a 35-pound ruck for a 12-mile march, which required completion in less than three hours. That was followed by exercises in calling for simulated artillery fire, tactical vehicle identification, establishing a listening/observation post and an EIC knowledge board.
Spc. Douglas Teed, a 2-38 Cavalry scout and a competition participant, said every event tested his knowledge and physical skills, but he was able to push through each obstacle.
"Physically it's been challenging, and when you are physically challenged you're a little tired, so it makes it mentally challenging as well," said Teed.
The Owego, N.Y. native added the entire event was quite the experience, and said there was only one goal on his mind throughout the event.
"It's a honor to do it and to be chosen to do it. It's great training and it's good to get back to the roots of a scout," said Teed. "The goal is to always succeed, that's what we are going for."
McLaughlin said the Excellence in Cavalry award could only be earned if a Soldier earns a 'go' in all assigned tasks. He also added the event is a chance for Soldiers to set themselves apart from their peers, and for senior leaders to distinguish those capable of increased leadership duties.
"By the end of the course, [most participants] will probably have a 7-10 percent 'go' rate. It just lets the Soldiers see if they have what it takes to excel amongst their peers," said McLaughlin. "If they don't succeed in getting the EIC, they know that they pushed themselves for the past three days and bettered their knowledge for next time."
Teed couldn't agree more.
"It's important for me to get it because its shows leadership that I'm capable of doing my duties to the standard, and it makes you look good in the eyes of your supervisors," said Teed.
When the competition concluded, 27 Phantom Recon troops had finished their final tasks, but only two Soldiers received the coveted EIC award, proving the event's difficulty. Teed was one of the awardees, and said even though the mission in Kosovo is peacekeeping, it is always good to stay proficient in his skills no matter what, because they are easily forgotten.
"This is our job and we have a set of skills we need to perform our job, and we need to stay sharp on them," said Teed.