By Alton Dunham (USAG Fort Huachuca)June 16, 2009
Permanent-party Soldiers from the 304th Military Intelligence Battalion armed themselves with paintball guns June 4 to refresh their leader and Soldier skills during a special battle drill exercise.
Taking time out from their normal cadre responsibilities, the Soldiers went back to the basics to practice "react to contact" battle drills.
"It is important that our leaders and Soldiers do not get complacent within the training environment," said Command Sgt. Maj. James Ramsey, 304th MI BN. Sergeant major. "We are in a protracted conflict; and every Soldier must remain fully prepared and highly trained for deployment to the battlefield at any time."
Although typically branded as a combat arms task, the battalion leadership recognized the need for all Soldiers to maintain proficiency in what the Army designates as "Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills" in the Soldier's Manual of Common Tasks.
To stress the "real world" application, the 304th added a unique twist to the drill.
"The purpose of introducing the paintball element is to make our Soldier's spatially aware," said 1st Sgt. Kendall Bean, Company C first sergeant, 304th MI Bn. "It's easy to duck behind a tree branch and think you are behind enough cover - until you get hit with that paintball round. We want to reinforce that if the enemy can see you, he can hit you."
Before conducting the patrol and a potential peppering of "enemy" paintball rounds, the 304th spent much of the morning preparing for the mission.
"We used a method commonly referred to as 'crawl-walk-run' before the Soldiers went out there," said Sgt First Class Paul Sunseri, Company C, 304th MI Bn., and the Noncommissioned Officer in charge of planning and conducting the day's training.
The MI Soldiers first received a class on how to move in formation, conduct hand and arm signals, and properly react to contact. Although many in attendance had previous experience, the purpose of this "crawl" stage was to "reinforce basics, and train to standard," Bean said.
Next, the Soldiers performed rehearsals, and perfected working as a squad, with different Soldier's taking a turn as the squad leader. A critical training component of this "walk" phase, according to Sunseri, was the use of an operations order -- the Army's tool to ensure all parts of a mission are assigned, understood and able to be executed.
"Every member of the squad must be familiar with the concept of the operation," Sunseri said. "At any given time in combat they may be called upon to step up and lead that mission."
Once rehearsals were complete and the OPORD understood by all, the squads moved out on patrols to conduct their mission.
Cpl. Curtiss Kuhn, Company B, 304th MI Bn., was "wounded" by a paintball round during a skirmish with the enemy.
"As the assault team, we did a right flank as the other team laid down suppressive fire," he said. "The enemy was able to fire upon me, grazing me in my left arm. Unfortunately, this desert terrain really provides limited cover and concealment."
Although natural terrain was not at Kuhn's disposal during his assault, his training and spatial awareness -- coupled with correct movement techniques -- allowed him to swap a potentially "fatal" wound with a minor "grazing" one.
Upon being hit, Kuhn then immediately identified the enemy, returned fire and "killed" him.
"The paintball definitely gives a reality to what could happen in that situation," Kuhn said. "The instant feedback brings realism to the element of training."
Already a veteran of one deployment to Iraq, Kuhn is scheduled to deploy to Iraq in the near future.
Maintaining proficiency for Soldiers, like Kuhn, and preparing them for real-world missions is what the training was all about according to 304th leadership.
"It is always good to see Soldiers training, learning and growing," Bean said. "I believe that all Soldiers left the training with a better understanding of how to survive and eliminate a threat."