ORCHARD COMBAT TRAINING CENTER, Idaho -- A cold wind swept across the land in the early morning as a Stryker Combat Vehicle made its way into position. Inside the more than 16 tons of steel, a crew scanned for targets in the area. Suddenly, a deafening and repeating burst of machine gun fire was heard as the Stryker's gunner engaged targets with the vehicle's M2 50 Cal.
With the targets destroyed, the Stryker Combat Vehicle pressed on to find other potential targets in the seemingly endless and unforgiving terrain.
This was part of Warhorse Fury, a training exercise for Soldiers of 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team. The exercise is being held Oct. 3-27, at Orchard Combat Training Center, Idaho. The intent is to train and certify individuals and crews, conduct a platoon live fire and squad training exercise to certify the platoons prior to their upcoming training rotations for Bayonet Focus at Fort Hunter Liggett, California, and the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.
"This exercise allowed us the time and range space to facilitate us training with our enablers," said 1st Lt. Aaron Spikol, a platoon leader with A Troop, 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment. "We got to work closely with our fire support team, mortar teams, and we did live call for fire training, which is a unique opportunity."
They were also able to work with the signal intelligence section from the military intelligence company. Overall it was a great opportunity to train with all of those involved with squadron operations that are not seen on a regular basis.
"It definitely helps out the Soldiers who have not had these kind of experiences before," said Staff Sgt. Scott Walker, a squad leader with A Troop. "It helps them gain confidence in their leadership and themselves."
In order to gain that confidence, the teams have to work on communication and synchronization, which is vital for the crew to be able to operate the Stryker vehicle effectively, Walker added.
The eight-wheeled, olive drab Stryker is operated by a three-member crew of Soldiers, each with a specific job that is important for the successful operation of these lethal machines. The crew is comprised of: a driver that operates and positions the vehicle to fire on target, a gunner who locates targets and employs its weapon system, and a truck commander who commands and supervises all operations of the vehicle.
The driver does not have the same view as the gunner does, who also does not have the same view as the truck commander, said Walker. No one has the same view. To make that crew successful, they have to be able to talk and paint the picture for each other of what is going on, where targets are and feed off each other's cues.
"This makes them confident in their capabilities and stay in tune with each other," Walker said. "The driver knows what he needs to do. If I ask for an update, he knows what four gauges I want him to read from. When I tell him we have troops in the open, he know how big of a burst to fire and where to aim. It is definitely a team effort."
As a new gunner, Spc. Jesus Razo, a Soldier with A Troop, said he gained much knowledge during these exercises. He has learned to operate within the platoon, troop and squadron.
"After multiple training events, you really learn how each platoon's mission pieces together for the troop's mission success and how that in turn leads to the success of the squadron's mission," Razo added.
"The platoon has continued to learn and improve while we are here at OCTC," said Spikol. "We have continued to improve our ability to engage targets as a platoon and are able to conduct our reconnaissance mission."
They still have to focus on the fundamentals: the ability to engage targets with a high degree of accuracy and be able to report accurately, Spikol said. It's about honing their craft.
"I feel as a crew, we are 100 percent ready for Bayonet Focus and NTC," said Walker. "This has definitely helped us refine our skills to be a more effective force on the battlefield."