FORT DRUM, N.Y. ─ The 572nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain), Vermont National Guard, kicked off annual training with a bang on Tuesday. Soldiers from the unit participated in various live-fire ranges with fragmentation grenades, Mark 19 40mm grenade machine guns, M4 carbines, M249 light machine guns and M240B machine guns.

"For this particular annual training the priority is squad validation lanes, so we spent the whole year building up to those tasks. We're going to validate on such as movement to contact, react to direct ambush, react to indirect ambush, conduct an attack, and assault an urban area," said Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Caddy, Alpha Company, 572nd BEB. "All these different tasks that we can do piecemeal throughout the year we're now able to tie into the culminating exercise where we do all those tasks in one continuous run."

Many of the battalion's had Soldiers in leadership roles participating in the 86th IBCT's Warfighter exercise, a tactical operations drill designed to train brigade and battalion staff. The battalion conducted careful planning to ensure that the training for the Soldiers in the field continued without a hitch. Junior leaders stepped up where they were needed to conduct operations and secure supplies.

"They're going off of a plan we established in the rear before coming here. They knew what tasks had to be completed, they got everything ready, and when the main body arrived with the rest of the troops they had training areas drawn, they had their ranges ready, and they had their ammo and food all set," said Master Sgt. John Perreault, the battalion operations noncommissioned officer, Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 572nd BEB. "The leadership came in, set-up, and started training the next day, so it's been pretty successful so far."

Soldiers were sending live-rounds downrange within 24-hours of arriving. The ranges were busy with Soldiers firing individual and crew-served weapons to prepare them for squad level operations.

"The whole purpose is to become more efficient and qualified on the weapon systems we have," said Sgt. 1st Class Gregory James Bean, operations non-commissioned officer, Bravo Company, 572nd BEB.

The different live-fire exercises allow Soldiers to get more hands-on experience with most of the unit's armaments. Additionally, they're using weapon systems they are normally unable to use because of restrictions at ranges located closer to their home station.

"We're doing the grenade qualification course and grenade live fire, so we'll get to throw some live grenades, something we can't do in Vermont because we just don't have the facilities," said Caddy. "It'll be good for a lot of guys who probably haven't thrown a grenade since basic training."

The Vermont National Guard operates Camp Ethan Allen Training Site (CEATS) in Jericho, Vermont. The training site is well developed for conducting exercises and offers the Guard a lot of great opportunities, but it still has limitations.

"CEATS is a great training facility, especially for a small state like ours, the only problem is that it's small," said Bean. "Fort Drum is huge, so we can have multiple ranges going on covering all the weapon systems in the next two to three days."

Being able to conduct training on Fort Drum is important because it allows the combat engineers in the 572nd BEB to utilize and train on explosive ordnance. CEATS has a limit of five pounds of explosives, whereas Fort Drum has a higher limit allowing the Soldiers to use the larger explosives intended for clearing routes and hazards.

"You can talk guys through it, and use simulated and inert material, but there is no substitute for getting out there and actually getting your hands on it," said Caddy. "[You are] seeing the effects of what a shape charge does, what a cratering charge does, and what a Bangalore torpedo does."

The 572nd BEB's is putting their arsenal to use, so Soldiers are training with the battalion's weapons, allowing them to be proficient and see what they can do. Soldiers are excited to be part of the action.

"When they're able to get out here, take part, shoot their weapons, do it well, and see the target systems at the actual distances we're shooting at it builds their morale, their enthusiasm and their skillset," said Bean.