Story by Spc. Jordy Harris, 101st Airborne Division Public Affairs
Fort Polk, LA. – During their training rotation in Fort Polk, Louisiana, Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) , Apache Troop, 1-33 Calvary, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) encountered a group of displaced civilians as they conducted reconnaissance.
The civilian group (role players) had been traveling for upwards of five days with limited food, water supply, and little to no rest time. Upon arriving in 1-33’s footprint, they had resorted to drinking creek water for sustenance and eating raw meat from field rabbits as they ran out of the supplies to make even a small fire. The soldiers provided the civilians with clean water and rations to sustain them until they were evacuated to a safer location.
Sgt. 1st Class Scott Johnson, platoon sergeant of Apache Troop, 1-33 Calvary, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and a native of Detroit, Michigan, led operations in regards to the aid of the displaced civilians.
“We took time and gave adequate effort to understand the situation that they might’ve been in, and figuring out the best way to talk to them without being too headstrong or seeming aggressive,” said Johnson.
Johnson also coordinated the safe evacuation of every civilian, calling in a convoy to escort them to their next destination, and calming their nerves as they heard nearby gunfire.
“Just simply sitting them down and assessing their needs, such as clean water, because some of them had bad water, allowed us to build some cohesion and trust with the civilian population,” said Johnson.
JRTC focuses on improving unit readiness by providing realistic, stressful, joint, and combined arms training. For the soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), the last few weeks of continuous training have both strengthened their executions of battle tactics as Division and tested their mettle as Soldiers on the battlefield.
“The training is definitely paying off.”, said Johnson. “I have had a lot of experience with key leader engagements, and I know it is not necessarily what we are doing here at JRTC, but we had our security set up to help them feel protected, and we got some good time in with the civilian population to not only understand them more but understand more about the area in general.”
As the training in JRTC ramps up, 1-33 CAV continues to push forward, and challenge their soldiers to stay resilient and to further improve on how they operate as a Calvary Unit and interact with a civilian element, no matter what the situation may be.
“Learning how to talk and de-escalate a situation in a harsh environment and being able to make a civilian feel like we’re right there with them is the goal.”, Said Johnson.
For the 3rd Battalion Combat Team, it does not end here. Throughout this operation, the testament of each commander and Soldier has been to defend their post, improve against each enemy incursion, and to work better together as a team. They understand this training isn’t about being perfect, but it is driven on the real-world stressors of deploying against any enemy combatants in a territory that is unfamiliar to them.
As they inch closer towards the end of their JRTC rotation, they will take what they have learned, and make it applicable towards future training and doctrine to prepare for their next rendezvous with destiny.