FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — For more than 150 trainees with Company E, 701st Military Police Battalion, the final field training exercise of the basic combat training phase of one station unit training — referred to as “The Forge” — went above and beyond what some others may experience during their time at Fort Leonard Wood — literally — according to Echo Company Platoon Leader 2nd Lt. Carlos Paiz, officer in charge of the event, which took place from Oct. 17 to 20.
With the help of Soldiers with the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, an Army Reserve unit located in the Kansas City area, Paiz said Echo Company trainees were airlifted from Forney Airfield via a C-47 Chinook helicopter to a landing zone that served as the starting point for a realistic and scenario-based four-day training event developed by company cadre that included a 10-mile infiltration, full-blown tactical operations center, simulated enemy contact and major unit movements.
“The day and night missions included in the FTX were designed to test their abilities, so they could ultimately earn the title of ‘Soldiers,’” he said. “Everything we did required a lot of coordination, but it didn’t get away from teaching the fundamentals, which is the most important part of basic training. Making sure trainees understand the basics of shoot, move, communicate and survive is the goal of every drill sergeant under U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and the cadre in this company. By combining that understanding with different assets recreating what they would see in a real-life combat situation, we ensured they were mentally and physically fit, and ready to deploy when they get to their unit.”
At the end of the exercise, trainees were exfiltrated from the training area by air.
“The trainees were beyond excited,” Paiz said of the flights. “They knew it might happen, pending weather, fuel and maintenance of the aircraft.”
For many of the trainees, including Pvt. Cambria Cella, a National Guard Soldier from Avondale, Pennsylvania, the use of aviation support ensured the lessons learned during the FTX were ingrained in their memories forever.
“It felt very authentic, and I think it added to the experience and helped the whole company continue, persevere and see the bigger picture of what we came here for,” she said. “A lot of other basic training units don’t have this opportunity, so I’m very grateful for the experiences and it inspired me to go into aviation later in my career.”
Pvt. David Riley, from Rapid City, South Dakota, had flown in helicopters before as a wildland firefighter, but said seeing his fellow Soldiers experience it for the first time motivated him to push through the last few days of training.
“It was cool to watch my battle buddies enjoy it together,” he said. “Seeing the smiles on their faces was rewarding.”
Paiz said unit cadre tried to go above and beyond this cycle to provide the best quality training possible, and that when the time came, everyone stepped up to the plate to make the exercise a success — including the trainees.
“The cadre in this company dedicated a lot of extra hours this cycle to get the trainees to this point,” he said. “(During the exercise) the trainees were extremely disciplined. We trusted that they were going to do the right thing in the field, and they did, and they followed all the instructions in the aircraft. We had zero issues.”