By 2nd Lt. David Park
SAVANNAH, Ga. - In the dead of a cold night, shadowy figures crept forward into a wood line with rifles raised. The roaring engines of C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III flying overhead drown out the sound of their movement through the brush. They spot their intended target: a fighting position of U.S. Army Rangers defending a vital airfield. At the signal of the group's leader, the shadowy figures unleash a volley of small arms and machine gun fire at the unsuspecting position. The Rangers quickly swivel their weapons, reciprocating fire at the attacking force. After several minutes of intense fire, the Rangers call for support and soon the buzzing of AH-6 Little Birds come into earshot and begin firing. Outnumbered and outgunned, the shadowy figures call off the attack and melt back into the darkness of the forest.
The shadowy figures were not actual enemy troops, but Soldiers of the 474th Engineer Platoon (Route Clearance) augmented by a detachment from the 388th Engineer Company. These Soldiers supported 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment during Operation Kick-Punch at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia, Jan. 17 to 23.
Operation Kick-Punch was a multi-component extended combat training focusing on fixed wing airfield seizure.
"What a phenomenal multi-component opportunity Operation Kick-Punch offered the 388th and 474th," said Lt. Col. Jon Brierton, commander, 841st Engineer Battalion. "The relationships and partnerships established between the (active component) and (Reserve component) are solid. The (Ranger battalion) sought out our support and we were thrilled at the opportunity to provide it. Operation Kick-Punch was a win-win for all parties concerned."
The 474th Eng. Plt. and 388th Engineer Company, both under the 841st Eng. Bn., supported the Ranger battalion as part of their extended combat training with the intent of providing realistic combat situations for the Rangers in various environments ranging from multi-lateral fixed wing airfield seizure training to urban warfare.
The Soldiers had the rare opportunity to witness firsthand the methodical precision in which the Rangers conducted their missions as well as the ferocity when engaged even within the training environment. The exercises also enabled the Soldiers to renew squad-level tactics and maneuvering against the Rangers while operating in low visibility with limited communication. Many Soldiers, a majority junior enlisted, were able to take on additional responsibilities and initiative during these combat missions that will helped them develop key leadership characteristics and develop stronger unit cohesion and camaraderie.
Between training missions, several Rangers of 3rd Battalion trained the Reserve Soldiers how to quickly acquire targets from various locations, engage and fire at enemy positions while moving, and ready-up drills which teach effective short range rapid engagement shooting techniques. The Rangers also taught close quarter battle techniques and mentored them step-by -step to clear rooms and eventually entire buildings through simulated shoot houses.
"My whole squad is comprises of (horizontal construction engineers, wheeled vehicle mechanics and construction equipment repairers)," said Sgt. Jason Rettig, squad leader, 474th Eng. Plt. "You're pretty much looking at mechanics and equipment operators who have never cleared a room in their lives, and here they are, clearing them the way the Rangers are teaching them to do."
Upon completion of Operation Kick Punch, the Battalion Commander Col. Patrick Ellis, commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Victor Ballesteros, senior enlisted adviser, both with the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, expressed their gratitude to both engineer units for their support during their multi-lateral fixed wing airfield seizure training.
"The overall result was that the 388th and 474th's confidence, team work, and morale have increased substantially," said Brierton. "This was a great opportunity for the (active component) and (Reserve component) to train and grow together."
One can expect if these Soldiers and Rangers were to meet again in the near future, either in training or on the battlefield, there will be a mutual sense of respect and appreciation for each other's combat capabilities and litheness.