By Staff Sgt. Mark A. Moore II, 2nd Brigade Combat Team PAO NCOICOctober 22, 2015
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Oct. 22, 2015) -- Engineers assigned to B Company, 41st Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, conducted a platoon-level base defensive live-fire exercise Oct. 5-7 on Fort Drum's training area.
The culminating event marked the end of a nearly two-month-long training cycle that focused on the skills needed to secure, build and defend an area suitable for sustained engineering operations. The training paralleled current mission taskings for the Soldiers' upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.
Arriving by helicopter (air assault), they seized essential land areas, bulldozed earth to create base perimeter walls, built multiple two-man fighting positions, emplaced anti-personnel mines and fought off simulated enemy attacks during day and night live-fire scenarios.
Pvt. Justin Whitlock, combat engineer, described the initial assault as invigorating.
"It really gets your adrenaline going," he explained. "(You go in) knowing that this is training, but you train how you fight, so just going into a building to clear it knowing that one day this could really be you doing it down range makes you take it seriously."
With key terrain secured, heavy equipment operators moved in to build the perimeter walls that would safeguard them from simulated enemy gun fire.
"Each wall is about 60 meters in length and about 12 feet high," explained 1st Lt. Daniel Moore, ready force commander. "We have machine-gun fighting positions at every apex and two individual fighting positions between those."
While the use of bulldozers eased the burden of building the walls, the concertina wire, sandbag-lined fighting positions and anti-personnel mines were all emplaced or dug by hand within 24 hours of their arrival.
Whitlock explained that the lack of sleep and intense physical labor was a brutal, but necessary combination when training to initially secure and protect an area.
"Sleep deprivation is definitely one of those things that wear us down," he said. "But the company kept ticking; we kept going until the entire job was finished."
Whitlock and his fellow engineers drew motivation from one another throughout the night in their efforts to minimize the following day's preparations.
"We woke up this morning and it made it easier on us, because we only had a couple of things to do," he explained.
"I think this event is really preparing us for our real-world mission," Whitlock added. "You can't blame lack of sleep for not completing your missions."
Dug in and heavily armed, they waited in near silence for the attack.
Shortly thereafter, cracks of gunshots and the concussion of explosive blasts broke through the air. What ensued was a two-hour gun fight that ended with a diminished but maintained defensive perimeter.
Moore expressed his happiness with how his Soldiers pulled together to overcome the difficulties of a short, but intense, field training exercise, adding that the event was really about learning to trust your battle buddy to the left and right.
"Being out here running continuous operations and priorities of work for 72 hours instills trust in your leadership," he said. "The Soldiers know that at the end of the day they're going to get fed and get a little bit of sleep. But most importantly, they are going to have a good defensive position."