By Capt. Joseph Payton, 1st Brigade Combat Team PAOMarch 5, 2015
Editor's note: Following is part one of a two-part series on 2nd Brigade Combat Team's live-fire training exercise at Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk. La.
FORT POLK, La. -- When units arrive at the Joint Readiness Training Center they are seeking training that will expose their Soldiers to the types of experiences and challenges that they will face in a deployed environment.
Soldiers of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI) deployed in early February from Fort Drum, N.Y., to conduct a brigade level field training exercise with hopes of putting their home-station training and systems to the test.
There are few training events that get after the JRTC mantra "Realistic, Rigorous and Relevant" better than the live-fire exercise. LFX at JRTC is used to validate a rotational training unit's tactical and technical competence, in addition to its ability to respond appropriately in the face of battle.
Although live-fire training is possible at his unit's home station, Col. David S. Doyle, 2nd BCT commander, welcomes the training opportunity for his Soldiers.
"There is a school of thought that says JRTC should not be about live-fires. I mean, units have the facilities, the leadership, the equipment to be able to do that," Doyle said. "But I certainly appreciate coming here because we got amazing reps."
Doyle is firm about the fact that training is the responsibility of his subordinate leaders, but he is cognizant of the expertise that JRTC's trainers provide.
"I have a chain of command whose sole purpose in life is to train its Soldiers. But it's good to have the experience of the live-fire trainers and the scenario writers," he said.
"The brilliant thing about live-fire branch is that they modulate pretty well, so if it's a unit kind of working their way through systems and SOPs (standard operating procedures), they kind of ratchet it down a little bit. If it's a unit that's on its game, they can increase the intensity, so they are a phenomenally gifted group of trainers."
A Company, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, was one of the brigade's companies to gain an appreciation for the live-fire training at JRTC.
"This is very relevant, because right now even overseas you have a lot of different assets to bear -- not just what you have in your company," said Capt. Travis Young, commander of A Company, 4-31 Infantry.
Young, who has experience serving with the Army Rangers, discussed the rigors associated with the LFX at JRTC.
"It's very difficult," he said. "You don't get all of these teams to come in and to work with you on a regular basis. It takes synchronization and a lot of getting to know the capabilities that are supporting you in order to accomplish that end-state."
JRTC's live-fire training takes the companies through a three-day process, which includes some instruction on troop-leading procedures, rehearsals, blank-fire iteration, and finally, the live-fire iteration.
"We give them an opportunity to do a deliberate TLP process to do some deliberate planning," said Capt. Keith Haire, company observer - controller / trainer, Live Fire Operations Group. "They will give their operations order, then have the opportunity to go on to the objective to do a blank-fire rehearsal on the actual site, see the terrain, then actually do the TLP process up until the live-fire day."
According to JRTC live-fire trends, "rigorous and repetitive rehearsals directly correlate to tactically sound LFX execution," and based upon his experience, Young agreed.
"Rehearsals work," Young said.
The Army prides itself in training as it fights, but there is no better motivation for leaders and Soldiers to make realistic safety considerations than when live rounds are being fired downrange and your battle-buddies' lives are at risk.
"I think the company has to think more deliberately in their planning and definitely have to be more considerate in the analysis of how to mitigate risk and also achieve the mission," Haire said.
The live-fire OC/Ts realize that they are part of an elite group of trainers, and they realize the implications of the quality training they provide the rotational units.
"Before becoming an OC out here, I never had an opportunity to do a live-fire at JRTC, but I've done some at (the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif.) and some of the other ones," said Sgt. 1st Class Ernest Williams, Battalion Mortars OC/T, Live Fire Ops Group. "In my opinion, the live-fires that we're able to replicate here are truly the best in the Army, based on my experience."
The benefits to the live-fire training go beyond the primary goal of training the rotational unit. The experience is reciprocal for the OC/Ts and the Army at large, as JRTC has the capacity to share the best practices across the force.
"To see units come through here, you see good TTPs (tactics, techniques, procedures), bad TTPs, and how we can implement them when we get back into the big Army," Haire said. "But also to look at ourselves on how we can improve training to see how to make it more realistic and more accurate in line with what they would encounter downrange."
As for Soldiers of A Company, 4-31 Infantry, their JRTC live-fire experience has helped to improve their ability to fight the enemies of the U.S. if they are ever called upon to do so.
"We learned more in three days as far as shoot, move and communicate than we could have anywhere else," Young said. "We were away from any other distractions so our sole focus out here is learning our job and integrating those other war-fighting functions. It was an invaluable experience that we couldn't have gotten anywhere else."