FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. - Small arms fire rang out from multiple directions, radios crackled, boots quickly crunched dry brittle brush.The smell and smoke of spent gunpowder wafted through the air.
"Keep pushing them," yelled an Army Reserve Soldier.The Soldiers repelled the six opposing force attackers until an observer coach called out 'Pause' and the gunfire stopped just as quickly as it had begun.
More than 30 Soldiers from the Army Reserve's 779th Engineer Company out of Parkersburg, West Virginia, had just completed the complex small arms fire attack training lane, July 16, 2018 during the Army Reserve's Combat Support Training Exercise 91-18-01.
CSTX 91-18-01 was held July 7-27 to help validate Army Reserve unit readiness requirements.The joint multi-national exercise had more than 11,000 service members from 160 units participate.We have "so much going on," said 2nd Lt. James Parker, platoon leader and a horizontal engineer with the 779th En. Co., "multiple tank projects. Each tank ditch is different."Parker, who works as an electrical engineer for Northrop Grumman in his civilian career, explained that during normal unit battle assemblies his unit doesn't get "stick time," which means hands on with the levers that move the cab, bucket and gears in the unit excavation equipment.
According to Parker, the unit used a bulldozer, a skid-steer back hi-excavator and backhoe loader during the July 16, CSTX training lane.
The CSTX "gets my guys with stick time," Parker added.
Then suddenly the engineers were drawn into a firefight with opposing forces, who descended on the area with SAF and attacked in multiple locations.The attack tested the unit's ability to stop their work, communicate to each other the response to multiple threats and defend themselves quickly.
"During the placement of our survey we noticed there was some OPFOR that came out to the Westside," said Army Reserve Spc. Cory Farley, a technical engineer with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 315ht Engineer Battalion and attached for annual training to the 779th Eng. Co., "which put the entire area on high-alert."
They also noticed OPFOR approaching, crossing the road from the Southside, Farley said.
"We all got on line," Farley said. "We decided it was time to push back. We kept pushing till the enemy started to retreat to the other side of the fence."They kept pushing till they were out of their area of operation and offsite, he added.
Afterwards, during the after action report with the 779th's observer coach/trainers, the 779th Eng. Co. had a few improves to work on including: keeping better situational awareness of their mobile command post location in their area of operations and to not bunch up so much during their bounding movements.
"Our NCOs did an amazing job" communicating with the unit's Soldiers during the attack, Farley said.
The equipment operators can't always hear SAF with their machines being so loud, he added.
"There was great movement amongst the squads," Farley said, "We just did what were supposed to do and what we were trained to do."