Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. - A maintenance convoy of 10 vehicles, moves down the road with the gunners a top the vehicles, on a swivel, looking for enemy movements. Suddenly, figures pop up from the brush and start firing on the convoy. The gunners start firing back and the convoy moves out of the line of small arms fire. As the convoy moves away, an explosion is set off on the side of the road disabling one of the vehicles, stopping the convoy while it still take small arms fire.
This scenario has happened many times over the past 16 years of combat. A convoy is ambushed and pushing into an Improvised Explosive Device, disabling and stopping the convoy. Today, though, this is just an exercise.
308th Brigade Support Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Brigade is out at Yakima Training Center, Wash., April 7-12, conducting platoon evaluations. This is to ensure, that when they are called upon to deploy, they are ready and know how to conduct their daily combat operations.
"The purpose of the exercise is to evaluate the platoon collective training," said Command Sgt. Maj. Phelicea Redd, Command Sgt. Maj. of 308th BSB and a native of Memphis, Tenn. "Each unit has a mission essential task list, we are evaluating if our headquarter platoons can accomplish their collective tasks on that list and to find out if they are fully trained, trained but need practice or untrained in those areas."
There are two platoons in 308th BSB Headquarters and Headquarters Company, these are the maintenance platoon and the support platoon. The maintenance platoon takes care of the maintenance on the vehicles and generators, vehicle recovery, and escort missions. The support platoon handles the logistics operations, which consists of resupply missions of food, ammunitions, fuel and other supplies that may be needed at the combat outposts.
"These evaluations represent what the 308th would see in a combat situation," said Sgt. 1st Class Abraham Rivera-Perez, the battalion support operations noncommissioned officer and a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico. "I've done three tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, and seeing what other units like ours do, running logistic and maintenance recovery operations, it prepares the soldiers and helps them become better at conducting their jobs in logistic operations. So when they have to engage the enemy while recovering vehicles, which does happen, they are ready.
Sgt. Skyler Smith, the senior mechanic and a native of Green River, Wyo., agreed with Rivera.
"For my section, we were evaluated on maintenance operations and vehicle recovery," said Smith. "When I was deployed this is exactly the type of operations that we conducted. We may not have gotten attacked as much in the evaluation as we may or may not receive in theater but it is still what we would be doing."
Smith went on explaining, "The majority of our soldiers have not deployed yet but i do feel that the training that we have conducted with our soldiers has helped to give them a better understanding of what is expected of them and what they may come across downrange. This evaluation definitely let us know where we stand in our training."
Both platoons found things that they needed to train on better. Radio communications was one of the bigger things for both.
"We did have a few improvements that came from our after action reviews," Smith said. "The things that we did identify we are putting into our tactics, techniques and procedures, so that we don't make the same mistakes in the future."
When units run evaluations, like this one, there are two sides to the evaluation, the ones being evaluated and the evaluators. The evaluator's job is to see how the people being evaluated operate in combat situations to measure how well they are able to compete their tasks. To help with that job, the evaluators use oppositional forces to give the scenarios a more realistic feel.
"OpFor is a representation of the enemy forces," said Rivera, "to show the soldiers conducting the evaluations, what they could be up against in a real combat situation. The soldiers that worked with me were very motivated and wanted to do the job."
Being the OpFor, the soldiers under Rivera's leadership also learned a few things about real combat situations.
"Playing OpFor taught my soldiers that there are people in this world that don't agree with the principles that we stand for," continued Rivera. "It also teaches them that there are two sides of the spectrum, it's not just us as the friendly forces and them as the enemy, but they see us as the enemy as much as we see them as the enemy."
Rivera also used this time to train the soldiers in small unit tactics, how to use the local terrain for cover and concealment, and how to look for ways of getting the upper hand against a larger enemy force.
"Overall, I think the evaluations went well," said Redd. "This training will help in a deployment. Since we train as we fight, [the soldiers] can get proficient in the training, so that when they do fight they will have the skills to survive."