FORT SILL, Okla., Oct. 11, 2018 -- With the Army increasing the challenge of basic combat training, D Battery, 1st Battalion, 31st Field Artillery is the test battery here pioneering much of the program of instruction (POI) implementation.

Working through each requirement and the resulting lessons learned, the battery is developing tactics, techniques, and procedures for the rest of the 434th Field Artillery Brigade's basic combat training batteries here.

This cycle being the battery's second Forge before the POI takes effect, we applied many lessons learned to make this cycle a useful mode for execution of the Forge.

A big part of the changes require the substitution throughout the cycle of ruck marches for much of the normal bus transportation.

These marches have built trainees' stamina and conditioning for this, the final FTX or Forge Week, a crucible. The penultimate week to the Forge gave trainees a slight respite in preparation for the capstone exercise, conducting Phase II shots, and combatives and pugil tournaments, as well as the obligatory precombat inspections and checks.

The Forge, a 96-hour exercise, covers 26 miles of cumulative ruck marching in tactical movements, contributing to a distance of over 38 miles, counting navigation and negotiation of operations on the various training areas.

The Forge consists primarily of night operations where trainees executed medical squad training exercise lanes consisting of a string of evaluated, hands-on combat aid tasks.

The Forge began auspiciously with a midnight start point for a tactical road march, the trainees' first event.

Along this route they encountered obstacles (the Combat Obstacle Course) under cover of night before encountering a key leader engagement, which created the framework for much of the mission to come.

Operations during daylight chiefly consisted of reset and position improvement at the trainees' patrol base and a pugil competition, while maintaining at least 33 percent security.

With the coming of dark Day 1 into Day 2, trainees reacted to a mass casualty event, and were presented an ethical dilemma, for which they had to apply their Army values.

Next day, trainees exercised on medical squad training then transitioned to a force-on-force encounter with an opposition unit, each armed with Multiple Integrated Laser Equipment System gear to provide immediate feedback.

The battery then conducted a movement under direct fire at the Night Infiltration Course.

On Day 3, trainees conducted simple, yet slightly advanced rifle marksmanship of reflexive fire techniques at a live-fire range. Trainees trained up to this throughout the cycle using the crawl-walk-run progression model, with dry drill before live drills of magazine changes, ready-up drills, using a steady walking platform with a heel-toe roll.

That evening, the battery set out on a 10-mile tactical road march to the Combat Conditioning Course, which they negotiated under the cover of darkness.

Rolling into Day 4, the trainees moved to the 1-Mile Track to conduct a Keep in Mind System test, a round robin set of tactical and mental agility tasks. Upon completion, trainees made their way to the Rite of Passage site to officiate their transition from civilian to Soldier.

This has been an exhilarating and special BCT cycle as this group of trainees was the first in the 434th FA to go through much of the new POI, that took effect for the entire brigade Oct. 1.