FORT BENNING, Ga. The adrenaline builds as the Blackhawk UH-60 takes off. As the helicopter rises and surges forward, Soldiers keep going over the mission in their head to make sure they have it down. Adrenaline makes them bounce their legs up and down and fiddle with their weapons in anticipation. As the helicopter starts to descend, everyone tenses up and prepares to file out as quickly as possible. It's organized chaos.
Master Sergeant Troy Moore, the former first sergeant of A Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, called piling off a transport helicopter during an air assault mission the most exciting 30 seconds in the Army.
Sergeant Richard Whittenberger, a team leader in Company B, 1/15 Inf., agrees.
"It's addicting," he said. "You know when you land you're hitting your objective quick. There is nothing like it."
One of the problems he and the other noncommissioned officers in the 1/15 Inf. have is replicating the experience to train their subordinates who have never experienced it.
"You can drill it all day, but you have to actually do it to understand it fully," he said.
The Soldiers of B Co. got to experience riding in a Blackhawk UH-60 when they conducted air assault training at the Shelby Range training site on Fort Benning, Ga., March 21.
The site simulates the smells, sounds and arrangement of a typical Middle Eastern town and allows units like the 1/15 Inf. to conduct realistic training scenarios to better prepare them for deployment.
"I think the training is great," said Sgt. Jonathin Morgan, a team leader in B Co., 1/15 Inf. "I think we got a lot out of it at every level. Leaders got a chance to see how their Soldiers performed and see what they did well and what they need to work on. Soldiers got the chance to operate in a 360-degree environment."
Morgan explained that the training at Shelby Village allowed his Soldiers to employ all of their trained skills in a real-time environment against a live, thinking enemy.
"That training is more realistic than a lot of the training we do," he said. "Not everyone in a room we went into was a pop-up target. Soldiers had to do everything from interacting with civilians to choosing sectors of fire. It gave them a real feel of what they could encounter overseas."
According to Morgan and Whittenberger, the training also allowed them to evaluate the Soldiers in their platoon who haven't deployed.
"Training like this allows us to fix something, so it doesn't become a bad habit," said Whittenberger. "We can teach a guy that is pausing before he goes into a room or who is hesitant to pull the trigger what to do before we arrive in country, because by then, it's too late."
One of the things about the training exercise that impressed both NCOs was how quickly their new Soldiers have picked up on things.
"To be honest, they haven't made that many mistakes," said Morgan. "I'd say after the first 30 minutes, they had everything down. I was really impressed."
As the 3rd HBCT's next deployment gets closer, both NCOs think that situation-based training, like Shelby Range, will enable them to better able to perform their mission.
"Training like this is fun, but it makes you better," said Morgan. "In my opinion, we can't get enough of it. I'd have us do something like it every week if it was up to me."