By Spc. Phillip Adam Turner, 1st Cav. Div. Public AffairsOctober 14, 2008
National Training Center, Ft. Irwin, Calif. - We have all seen a military controlled entry point at various state-side installations; you show an ID card, a guard flashes you a smile and grants you entry to the place Soldiers and their equipment call home.
However, this changes once a unit's personnel and equipment are deployed to a combat environment, and the troopers of Delta Company 2nd Battalion 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division learned this first hand Oct. 12 as they conducted Entry Control Point training at Forward Operating Base Denver.
"This scenario based training goes hand-in-hand with the situations these Soldiers will find themselves in when they are deployed to Iraq," said Barstow Calif. native, Master Sgt. Saul A. Castillo, an Observer Controller with Alpha Company Ops Group, stationed out of Fort Irwin, Calif. "It is our mission as Observer Controllers to provide the most realistic training possible for these Soldiers in preparation for their upcoming tour of duty to Iraq."
At any given time during this particular lane of training here at NTC, O/Cs throw Soldiers of 1st BCT, 1st Cav. Div. into many different scenarios.
Whether it be reacting to indirect mortar fire, hostile local civilians, search and seizure or providing medical care to wounded civilians who approach the gate, these war-fighters must keep their 'head on a swivel,' and conduct themselves within the parameters of their rules of engagement at all times.
"We do all things not to confuse the Soldiers, but to show them how important their individual actions can be during deployment," Castillo said. "We are basically providing them an opportunity to get to know one another as well as improve on a unit and individual basis. Not all of these guys have deployed before there is some inexperience in all units, and those are the things we try to find and identify."
Using actors and Hollywood special effects such as controlled explosions, make-up to produce realistic wounds, and insurgent weapons loaded with blank rounds, the 'Diablo' Soldiers of D Co., 2nd Bn., 5th Cav. Regt. found themselves in what they called a "realistic deployment scenario."
"All training is good training, but this was definitely above par," said Philadelphia Pa. native Spc. Joseph Ryan Dunbar of D Co., 2nd Bn., 5th Cav. Regt., 1st BCT, 1st Cav. Div. "This kind of training gets you in a battle rhythm, as tankers we really wont be doing ECP down range, but the reacting to contact was good for us as it parallels our (mission essential skills). It was stellar training, good for the soul, good for the mind," he added.
"This was all about us maintaining our situational awareness. Who's doing what' Where is he going' What is she doing' Am I maintaining my lanes of fire' Am I doing the things I need to do to be successful'", said Sgt. Jason E. Rogers, Gunner, D Co., 2nd Bn., 5th Cav. Regt., from Killeen Texas. "For the most part we did these things and I am proud of the job my Soldiers did during these scenarios today."
Just like with any training the key is improvement, getting the new Soldiers familiar with the unit's standard operating procedures for different situations, as well as getting all members of the unit in a 'combat frame of mind.'
"Basically as long as they are showing improvement from day one that is what we want to see. If a Soldier tells me at the end of the day that they learned one thing from being here at NTC, then I have done my job," said Castillo. "When they say 'hey master sergeant I appreciate this, I learned this, I learned that,' ... that is all the gratitude we as O/Cs want or need,".