FORT POLK, La. -- Hidden deep in the tree line of Fort Polk, La., are dozens of cavalry scouts, watching and waiting for enemy forces to move through their area, July 23, 2016.
They are part of more than 80 New York Army National Guard scouts assigned to Bravo Troop, 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry, based in Jamestown, N.Y., and they are the eyes and ears for New York's 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team training at the Joint Readiness Training Center, July 9-30, 2016.
The scouts join more than 5,000 other Soldiers, including Army National Guard, Army Reserve and active Army elements of the task force for the JRTC rotation to challenge the task force in combined arms operations against a trained opposing force.
The training integrates combat operations ranging from infantry troops engaging in close combat with the enemy to integrating and employing artillery and aviation forces.
"The JRTC training has been good but really challenging," said Sgt. 1st Class John Gordnier, platoon sergeant, B Troop, 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry based in Jamestown, N.Y.
"As a cavalry troop, this is the first time we have operated at a platoon level, supporting a brigade - it adds another dimension to what we do on the battlefield," Gordnier exclaimed.
Cavalry scouts move both mounted and dismounted in front of the infantry task force to provide reconnaissance and evaluate terrain for obstacles, obtain vital battlefield information on the enemy, such as routes and formations and report this information to the commander before he commits forces.
"Here, we're the early warning system for the battalion and the brigade - our job is to monitor and report enemy movement coming through an area and disrupt when possible," Gordnier said.
According to Gordnier, besides acclimating to the heat and unfamiliar terrain, their biggest challenge had been conducting missions in the shortened timeline the condensed training schedule allows.
"We have very little time to go through our usual troop leading procedures - planning, analyzing both ours and the enemy's courses of action, preparation and rehearsals. We're doing all this on the fly while driving on the road,"Gordnier explained.
The Training Center provides combat training in a realistic environment that features a well-trained opposing force, civilian role-players on the battlefield, high-tech systems which monitor the action and observer-controller/trainers to evaluate unit actions.
"The observer-controllers have a lot of knowledge to share and we plan to take advantage of it," Gordnier said. "The whole purpose of training is to learn something new and influence how you get better."
"This is an ideal training opportunity for units to work through their operating procedures and learn what works and what doesn't work. It's all focused on platoon development and shaping leaders," said Capt. Sam Averitt, a cavalry Observer-Controller assigned to Task Force 4, JRTC Operations Group.
"Our job is to ensure the Soldiers stay safe - their dealing with high heat and moving vehicles all over unfamiliar terrain," Averitt said.
"We provide guidance but for the most part stay pretty hands off. They have the basics honed pretty well and are getting better with repetition. We'll go over improvements through AARs," Averitt explained.
"This has been a really good opportunity to see the big picture and see how the brigade combat team works and demonstrate what our Cavalry squad brings to the fight," said 1st Lt. Josh Williams, an executive officer assigned to B Troop.
According to Williams, the exercise has been realistic. They have been conducting force on force fighting, reconnaissance missions, screening operations-a defensive maneuver to provide early warning to infantry troops, clearing mine fields and obstacles and reporting enemy activity.
"This has been rough training with the lack of sleep and heat, but it's better than anything we've done. We're used to troop movement and doing our job. This is a good chance to train our new Soldiers but also for the battalion and brigade to exercise their role," Williams said.
"There are so many moving parts and pieces, everything from moving troops into the fight to resupplying equipment and Soldiers, it's a constant influx of Soldiers and vehicles. This really pushes the battalion and brigade to work through the issues that affect company and troop Soldiers - how decisions are made and communicated really impact our ability to fight - so they get to learn from their mistakes," Williams said.