Red Currahee squad leaders became proficient in battle drills and troop leading procedures during Toccoa Tough II, a leadership professional development course and field training exercise.
Second Lieutenant Scott Hinshaw, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), said squad leaders built espirit de corps and camaraderie during the course, March 8-12.
“Toccoa Tough II was developed to build our squad leaders and develop poise under pressure, while focusing on the troop leading procedures and their competency in the field, in order to develop their leadership when they move back and are able to train their squads,” he said.
Hinshaw served as officer-in-charge for the course. He was responsible for planning and organizing the course objectives. The first two days consisted of classroom instruction, where the Soldiers received lecture-style instruction and tactical classes covering topics that would then be executed during the field exercise portion.
“We wanted to start our field training exercise by conducting an air assault,” Hinshaw said.
“We were able to do that from Johnson Field, right in the brigade footprint and out to our field training exercise location,” he said.
From there, the group conducted five missions including ambush reconnaissance and raid.
“We were able to develop deliberate troop leading procedures with focus on presenting an operational order,” he said.
Staff Sergeant Logan Howard, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-506th Inf. Regt., said while executing the mission, squad leaders had to combine their knowledge from past experiences with the new information they learned during the course.
“Some of the most important things for squad leaders to keep in mind when executing battle drills and patrols, is to constantly monitor your subordinates, using team leaders in order to disseminate information and to delegate tasks to them,” Howard said. “It’s also important to take note of the surroundings, such as the terrain and weather and what effects it’s having on your unit.”
Howard said he was glad to be able to share some experiences with the other squad leaders, because it’s easy to get used to seeing the same faces every day at the squad level.
“It was good to be able to bond with other squad leaders from other platoons and companies because sometimes we become compartmentalized, working with the same three other squad leaders from our platoon,” he said. “It’s good to get to meet and work with the other squad leaders from around the battalion.”
Sergeant Michael Sklodowski, infantry squad leader, 1-506th Inf. Regt., echoed similar feelings about being with the other squad leaders and said the entire week was a lot of work overall.
“It was just a big mental toughness and grit check,” Sklodowski said. “We covered probably over 50 clicks in two and a half days – no sleep, no food, just getting after it day in and day out. It also allowed guys that don’t usually do certain roles to be in those other roles.”
Sklodowski said that although it was a good experience for building relationships, it didn’t come without some growing pains.
“At first it was kind of rough because with us all being squad leaders, everyone had their own way of doing things,” he said. “We were bumping heads in the beginning because everyone thought they had the right way to do things, but throughout the day we learned that we had to work together to build that teamwork and cohesion. When the battalion does training or deployments in the future that cohesion will benefit everyone.”
Sergeant Leo O’Brian, reconnaissance squad leader, HHC Scouts, 1-506th Inf. Regt., said patience is another important consideration as a squad leader. Taking the time for a tactical pause to make sure that the squad is doing the right thing can be essential to accomplishing the mission.
“My biggest takeaway was that I was able to see how tactically sound I am,” O’Brian said. “Just going over the fundamentals, making sure that I know how to do my job is key, so the Soldiers that I have are ready to go and fight.”
Sergeant Major Leonard Zawisza, 1-506th Inf. Reg., said the most important thing is for his squad leaders to be tactically and technically proficient in their skill, that way when they bring that back to their companies, they can share it with their Soldiers.
“My expectations were met 100%,” Zawisza said. “The biggest thing is thanking the staff for putting this together. This has been in the works since August of last year, so it was great to be able to get aircrafts, keep it on the training calendar, and not have something else become more important than training our squad leaders.”
Hinshaw said this was the first planning operation he’s conducted at 1-506th Inf. Regt. and he learned a lot about what goes into an operation, some things that he can improve on, some things Red Currahee does well, and how they can excel at their training. He said that ultimately the course was a success.
“Our biggest takeaway was the understanding of how to develop our squad leaders to their needs,” he said. “We were able to understand some of the weaknesses and strengths that they have and how we can build those squad leaders into better leaders in today’s Army.”