By Spc. Robert Cook, 2nd Brigade Combat Team JournalistOctober 15, 2015
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Oct. 15, 2015) -- Soldiers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment "Catamounts," 2nd Brigade Combat Team, finished a two-week field training exercise Oct. 7 on Fort Drum's training areas.
The exercise, dubbed Catamount Peak, allowed leaders to operate in a simulated combat environment while focusing on the squad- and company-level tactics necessary to maintain mission readiness.
"Soldiers are sleep-deprived, cold, wet, hungry and tested mentally and physically," said Capt. Michael Piccini, A Company commander. "This type of training prepares them for what they can expect during a deployment."
Training kicked off Sept. 29, when squad leaders ensured all personnel and equipment were ready to leave their motor pool by vehicle convoy to travel to their respective training sites.
During this phase, all drivers and vehicle commanders maintained radio conversation with each other to ensure a safe distance was kept while traveling the dusty training area roads.
Hours after their arrival, Soldiers of A Company stood ready to conduct a night-time air-assault mission to seize area "Garfield," a key piece of land held by enemy forces. That night, within seconds of the helicopter doors opening, they were subjected to heavy enemy gunfire that forced them to hastily evacuate and establish fighting positions used to secure the landing zone.
But, they were not alone in their efforts.
Attached to them were mortar men who provided indirect fire support that disrupted the enemy's movements long enough for them to seize "Garfield" and establish 360 degrees of security. With the area secured, brigade engineers moved in with bulldozers to help expedite the building of defensive fighting positions.
''If we would have had to dig the holes ourselves, we would not have been able to build the fighting positions to standard," Piccini said.
He explained that combat engineers are a major asset in improving base security and building the structures that help keep Soldiers safe during enemy contact. For Pvt. Nathaniel Ashcroft, an infantryman with A Company, this training event was all about learning the ropes.
"My main mission is to learn more," Ashcroft said. "I'm new and want to learn as much as I can, before I go overseas."
After seizing the initial objective, Ashcroft and a small team from his company spread out across the training area and focused on the small-unit offensive and defensive tactics needed to keep the enemy from regaining a foothold.
Offensive tactics included day and night patrols, helicopter air assaults, searches of houses and vehicles for weapons and enemy combatants, and security for convoys moving troops and equipment. Defensive tactics included operating entry control points -- a place where vehicles and personnel are searched for identification and weapons -- and building and defending fighting positions.
"The training is tough," said Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Davenport, A Company acting first sergeant. "The training is constant; it doesn't stop at the end of the day. You don't get to go home."
Assisting Davenport and his small team were medics, who if called upon could administer emergency medical treatment during simulated or real-world injuries.
"Any training will help you for deployment," said Spc. Ryan Foreman, senior medic. "In this training, you come out and do it over and over again, setting up the CCP (Casualty Collection Point), breaking it down, having to treat casualties. This is what will help you for deployment."
Overall, Catamount Peak provided leaders with an opportunity to gauge their company's mission readiness by identifying their strengths and weaknesses.
"I think it was a great opportunity to get a snapshot on our strength and weaknesses -- what we can improve on as a company to increase our level of readiness," Piccini said.