By Caroline GotlerMarch 27, 2009
Literally jumping into their training with both feet, 52 Soldiers made their entrance on Fort Benning by jumping onto Fryar Drop Zone March 13 after a seven-hour flight from their home station at Fort Lewis, Wash. The Soldiers, in C Troop, 38th Cavalry Regiment, 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, came to Fort Benning for the 4th Ranger Training Battalion's Reconnaissance and Surveillance Leaders Course.
"People said it was one of the first times any school here has ever seen a unit come and jump into their course," said CPT John Paluska, the troop's operations officer.
C Troop has had a lot of firsts during the past year.
The company stood up in May, and is one of only three active-duty long-range surveillance companies in the Army. In July, C Troop was reorganized under the newly designated 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, formerly the 201st Military Intelligence Brigade. The reorganization is part of the Army's transition to a modular force.
C Troop reports directly to the brigade level, and in theater, its corps commander can order it to move wherever necessary.
"We're like a specialty company he can flex anywhere he wants," Paluska said.
In another first, C Troop is the first LRS company to come through RSLC as a full unit, in what is referred to as Resident Unit Training, said CPT Brian Canny, executive officer for D Company, 4th Ranger Training Battalion. A total of 71 students participated, 52 from C Troop, the highest enrollment ever for an RSLC course. The training was crucial for a unit mainly composed of Soldiers from backgrounds outside of surveillance and reconnaissance.
"We're a long-range surveillance Cavalry unit, but in reality, we are all Infantry Soldiers," Paluska said.
"We're supposed to be able to do everything the regular Infantry does, and more," said SSG David Lynn. "And this is the 'and more' part they're training us on here -transforming from an Infantry line guy in a nine-man squad to a six-man recon element. And that's huge for a lot of those guys who haven't been with a LRS unit before."
RSLC, a 26-day course that teaches communications, surveillance, and reconnaissance techniques, emphasizes hands-on training. Many C Troop Soldiers said that hands-on experience was one of the course's biggest benefits.
"Everything here is pretty much hands-on training, from radios to camo systems, insertion and extraction techniques, even sitting in the classroom," said SGT Kishawn Lewis. "The instructors are right there. If you have a question, they'll stop, make sure you get it, the guy next to you gets it, the whole class gets it and then they'll move forward."
The unit is set to deploy to Iraq in the fall, and its RSLC training will be vital to accomplishing its missions, SFC Phillip Razian, a communications platoon sergeant.
"When we got stood up, we had no equipment to train on," he said. "I've only got eight radios in my shop, and for me to train some 150 guys with eight radios, you can't do it. Coming here, the guys are getting hands-on training and actually being able to see how everything works. The 4th RTBn taking us onto this course is probably going to save lives."
To facilitate team building and esprit de corps, C Troop Soldiers trained at RSLC in the same teams they will work with when they deploy. That organization was vital in helping the Soldiers come together as a unit, Razian said.
"I think a lot of people didn't see the big concept of how everything's orchestrated on the battlefield," he said. "But they're starting to realize how important their role is. If one man goes down, you lose half your team."
Paluska credits the hard work of the RSLC instructors and cadre in making C Troop's training a success.
"The 4th RTBn has done an incredible job allowing our entire company to come here," he said. "It's one of the best organized, most professional courses I've ever been to."
RSLC is an important first step for C Troop, Canny said.
"It's a great building block for them to use to get ready for deployment," he said. "They'll be able to take it back to Fort Lewis and over to Iraq."