FORT IRWIN, Calif. -- Even with the formation split between Fort Hood, Texas and deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment "Brave Rifles" still maintains its Global Response Force, which must remain ready to respond and deploy, on short notice, to contingencies around the world.
As part of the GRF, Fox Troop, 2nd Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, took up its first mission May 19, 2018, and headed to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. for a month-long deployment.
It was just a few months ago that the regiment itself was going head-to-head against the opposing forces, or OPFOR, of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment "Blackhorse," during its own rotation at NTC. This time, however, the Brave Rifles troopers will get to experience the other side of the battle - as part of the OPFOR.
For this NTC rotation Fox Troop teamed up with 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cav. Regt., against 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, the rotational unit training at NTC, to act as the OPFOR.
"We provided the dismounted element that Blackhorse could not provide due to personnel shortages," said Capt. Avery Herbison, Fox Troop's commander.
Upon their arrival, the troop immediately began prepping for the 10-day rotation of force-on-force fighting they would engage in while in "the Box." This preparation phase is known as reception, staging, onward movement, and integration.
During RSOI, troopers began the arduous tasks of prepping for the upcoming mission. Tasks included downloading the equipment off the trains; fitting Strykers, weapons and troopers with MILES gear; performing weapon systems checks, and conducting one-on-one training to enhance individual and team skillsets.
Troopers sharpened their gunnery skills on the M2 .50-caliber machine gun, the MK-19, the Remote Weapon System and the Stryker itself.
Each Stryker crew learned to take apart and put together each weapon, perform a functions check, mount the weapon onto the RWS, and how to operate each weapon system while it is mounted to the RWS - using both thermals and regular vision.
In addition to gunnery skills training the troopers were also trained by a field service representative on operating the Javelin, which is the most critical weapon system used against an armored brigade.
Once RSOI was complete, Fox Troop mounted up and entered the Box to carry out its mission. The 10-day rotation is composed of two battle periods of force-on-force fighting, each lasting about 4-5 days.
During the first battle period Fox Troop's task was to retain "John Wayne Foothills" and "Bike Lake Pass" in order to deny their opponents freedom of maneuver into the central corridor of the Box and the training city of Razish.
Within the first two days of retaining these two passes, Fox Troop had destroyed one battalion worth of combat power.
"Bradley after Bradley, tank after tank, continued to maneuver into the pass and the platoons did a phenomenal job of using echelons of fire to keep the opponent exactly where they wanted, which was the engagement area for the Javelin gunners," Herbison said.
"Once in the engagement area, the Javelin gunners had the time of their lives picking the vehicles off one by one," Herbison said.
The opponent then attempted to send in dismounts to clear the OPFOR on the hills, but Fox Troop was prepared and waiting.
"Our platoons had planned for this and were manned with M240 machine guns and M249 machine guns specifically to protect their Javelin positions from dismounts," Herbison said. "Needless to say, enemy squad after enemy squad that dismounted out of the Bradleys were destroyed almost immediately upon observation by Fox Troop ops."
Due to Fox Troop retaining the passes and the city of Razish so vigorously as well as depleting their opponent of over a battalion worth of combat power, NTC Operations Group declared a suspension of battlefield effects.
"Because the enemy was so bottled up, they had not gained any terrain in a four-day time-period," said Sgt. 1st Class Adam Maliszewski, Fox Troop's first sergeant. "We were then told to basically give the enemy the city of Razish in order to maximize training for the rotational unit and allow them to continue to meet their training objectives.
Maliszewski said, "Simply stated, one single troop of alone and unafraid Fox Troopers dictated the movement of an entire armored brigade."
During the second battle period Fox Troop's task was to retain the mountains and hilltops, known as the "Pass Complex", that stretched north to south about 10-12 kilometers in order to deny their opponent freedom of maneuver into the western portion of the central corridor.
After sustaining a significant amount of casualties and loss of combat power during the first battle period, Maliszewski said their opponent seemed extremely hesitant in clearing westward.
"They continued to make the same mistakes and repeatedly sent 3-4 vehicles at a time, and repeatedly, we destroyed all of them," Maliszewski said.
At one point, their opponent sent in a reconnaissance platoon, and a detachment from 2nd platoon, Fox Troop, was able to maneuver on the opponent's Bradley, destroying the vehicle and all the personnel in it.
"Our AT-4 had a malfunction and we observed that the enemy Bradley had not noticed our location, so I took two other troopers with me and was able to maneuver right up to the ramp of the vehicle and toss a grenade inside," said Staff Sgt. Larry Anderson, a weapons squad leader with 2nd platoon.
After three days of retaining the passes, Fox Troop was tasked to retrograde to defend "Strawberry Fields" for the final day of force-on-force. During this period their opponent decided to go west through the southern corridor instead of attempting to get through Fox Troop again.
"NTC Rotation 18-08 was very successful for our troop. Not only did the troopers receive phenomenal training on how to fight as a Stryker unit against an armored brigade, but they were able to build confidence as they continued to defeat the enemy in the passes and successfully complete each mission," Herbison said.
Fox Troop completed the NTC rotation with the regeneration phase, packing up their equipment and loading it back onto the trains.
"All in all the rotation can be summed up when the 11th ACR Commander, told me that Fox Troop was the most successful and best, guest Blackhorse Infantry OPFOR support they have had during his time," Herbison said. "Fox Troop morale is high, and the troop is more confident than ever before because of the success of this rotation."