By Sgt. Mike AlbertsNovember 25, 2008
BELLOWS AIR FORCE STATION, Hawaii - Hovering but a few feet above the ocean's surface, a CH-47 Chinook helicopter discharges Soldiers one-by-one into the windblown water and they begin to swim ashore.
Their mission as part of the 25th Infantry Division's Combat Aviation Brigade's (CAB) "Mungadai" training exercise was to rescue a downed pilot in a nearby insurgent village and disrupt their information operations campaign.
Nearly 30 company/ troop and battalion/squadron commanders, led by Col. Mike Lundy, commander, 25th CAB, and joined by Maj. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr., commanding general, 25th Infantry Division, participated in the training exercise conducted here recently.
The term "Mungadai" originated with Genghis Khan and military units of the Mongol Empire during his exploits throughout central and northeast Asia.
Khan used the "Mungadai" to test potential leaders by linking physical and combat readiness and forcing them to perform under extreme conditions of stress. Khan's Mungadai-tested warriors were believed to be among the elite military units in the Mongolian Empire's army.
The 25th CAB has used the "Mungadai" training concept as part of the brigade commander's leader training program for some time and has conducted about 10 of these grueling events including reflexive firing, stress shooting, air assaults and combat life-saving techniques, all under simulated battlefield conditions.
Company and field-grade officers, senior warrant officers and NCOs, and the Division's battalion and brigade commanders in support of the Division's Green Tab PT participated in the previous "Mungadai" training events.
"This is one of a series of leader professional development events," said Lundy. "The intent was to link physical readiness with combat readiness while providing me an opportunity to get out with all the company commanders and test their mettle."
This intense series of training events began in the early morning hours at Wheeler Army Airfield where Soldiers received their mission brief and conducted rehearsals.
They then loaded a Chinook in three teams of nine Soldiers and were transported to Bellows Air Force Station where each Soldier's mettle was immediately tested with a helocast into the ocean off of Bellows Beach.
A helocast is a method of insertion used to position a small number of troops into an operational area by water.
Once in the Pacific, Soldiers swam 400 meters to shore, sprinted to a rally point to their team's Zodiac boat and linked up with a concerned local citizen who assisted each team through the remainder of the event.
The need for cohesive teams could not be overstated.
Teams moved by ground, carrying their Zodiacs to an inland waterway 300 meters from the pick-up location. Once at the river, each team paddled upstream 1,300 meters.
After disembarking, Soldiers continued by foot to a cache point where they prepared for their assault on an insurgent village more than 1,000 meters away.
Each team conducted their tactical assault of the insurgent strong point consisting of a series of freestanding structures, rescued the downed pilot under heavy resistance and finally moved the casualty by litter to helicopter more than 1,000 meters away.
"This gave me a great opportunity to do some team building with all 25 of my company commanders and the four battalion commanders," said Lundy. "And at the same time, demonstrate the direct linkage of physical readiness with combat readiness while forcing them to make some decisions under stress. That was the intent of the training."
By all accounts, the training objective was achieved.
"It was a challenge physically and mentally," said Capt. Scott Wyatt, A Co., 209th Aviation Support Battalion, 25th CAB. "But the exercise was also important to show that all our leaders are physically fit and can go out and do anything asked of us," he explained.
Capt. James Pascoe, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 25th CAB, agreed.
"I thought it was really challenging," said Pascoe. "The key thing was physical exhaustion - challenging leaders to make sound decisions and to keep moving forward with the mission despite being physically [tired]," he said.
Pascoe shared his thoughts of the importance of linking physical readiness with combat readiness. "Getting your Soldiers through physical exhaustion, especially [a unit's] leadership, to ensure that they all can make those decisions is key for operating at [the National Training Center] or on a deployment," he emphasized.