By Spc. Tracy R. WeedenJuly 13, 2010
Keep it Fresh FORWARD OPERATING BASE WOLVERINE, Afghanistan - The Soldiers of Task Force Eagle Assault are constantly finding new ways of keeping their skills fresh and up-to-date to meet the demands of combat. "It's how we keep the edge," said Lt. Col. John Kline. "We have to continue to train in order to stay proficient." "Everything we do is a perishable skill, and we can't expect the training we did in garrison to last through the deployment," said Maj. Charles Rambo, TF Eagle Assault training officer. Every company at TF Wolverine has a different training objective in order to keep their skills fresh. "We train every day," said Spc. Jonathan Waldrop, TF Eagle Assault Pathfinder. It is important for them to train as a team because they have Soldiers who arrived to the unit right before deploying, said Capt. Matthew Lensing, TF Eagle Assault Pathfinder Company commander. They train according to their mission here, which consists of personnel recovery, landing zone preparation and battle tactics. During a nighttime practical exercise, the Pathfinders participated in a competition that tested their team's abilities. The exercise consisted of assessing and transporting a casualty, calling in a nine-line medevac request, land navigation, and escape and evasion tactics. During the exercise, the main goal was to track down the pilot of a simulated downed aircraft who had escaped and was trying to evade the enemy. Stations were set up along the course to test the Soldiers' abilities, including memory and weapon assembly tests, said Lensing. All around the FOB, Soldiers are training mentally and physically. Capt. Stacy Pennington, TF Eagle Assault E Co. commander, is holding a fast track class which meets four times a week to help raise the Soldiers' General Technical score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test. Soldiers may need to raise their overall test score in order to meet their intended reenlistment or reclassification requirements. Other Soldiers are testing their limits physically with extreme physical fitness training. Soldiers are participating in different physical fitness exercises such as unarmed combatives, "Insanity" and "CrossFit." Unarmed combatives, a hand to hand fighting technique, is an Army combat skill to supplement combat abilities. "CrossFit" and "Insanity" are intense physical fitness exercise programs specifically designed to increase strength and endurance. "PT is a good way for Soldiers to train their bodies every day," said Rambo. Other elements of the task force are reaching out to help additional members of the FOB practice necessary combat skills. Capt. Damien Barrineau, TF Eagle Assault physician assistant, trains the security guards and contractors here on basic medical response techniques. He teaches them how to use the medical supplies found at the casualty collection points and how to respond to combat injuries such as chest trauma, airway blockage, abrasions and burns. After each lesson, Barrineau allows the participants to practice what they just learned on each other. Practicing helps them learn and remember the skills, he said. TF Eagle Assault's aviation safety officer, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Eric Collier, helped coordinate a live fire training exercise for the fire department here. The FOB perimeter was reconfigured, leaving some guard towers for them to put to good use, said Collier "We train best with live fire," said Staff Sgt. Derek Caterinicchio, 95th Engineering Detachment, 20th Engineering Brigade fire station chief. "Since the crew wasn't expecting the fire, it worked best to see how they reacted from start to finish." Even though they conduct training frequently, this event was unique. This live fire training was the first one they were able to do here, but they train three days a week on fire fighting procedures for aircraft and structure fires, said Caterinicchio. It is important for these firefighters to train together here, because they are a detachment of Soldiers who come from different units. "As with any training event, it gives us an idea of what we could work on ... it went really well," said Caterinicchio. The live fire training was productive and successful. "They had the fastest response time of any fire department I've ever worked with," said Collier. "They reacted very quickly, and that's very conducive to the aviation operations." Because helicopters carry fuel, a fire onboard can spread very fast and be extremely dangerous. "Quick reaction prevents loss of life and total loss of equipment," said Collier. The training built confidence in the firefighters as well as the task force. The fire department was allowed to test their men, equipment and show the chain of command how quickly they can react and respond to a fire, said Collier. "He (Caterinicchio) gained the confidence of every person who flies every day," said Collier. "Now they are assured that if they were to come in with a fire onboard, the fire department is going to take care of them." The live fire was also a good experience for the overall task force. Soldiers from all around the FOB were reporting the fire to the tactical operation center via radio. The safety office conducts training for the protection of the task force as a whole. They recently trained with Tri-max, an anti-flame foam fire extinguisher. Participants included the forward armament refueling point personnel, as well as Soldiers from every company within the task force, said Collier. Keeping up-to-date on training ensures the safety of all the service members and contractors on FOB Wolverine. "It's our responsibility to make sure our Soldiers have the proper training, equipment and leadership to remain safe," said Rambo. Blackhawk crew chiefs also conduct frequent training to sharpen their skills. They train on a variety of tasks such as how to communicate with pilots, firing, monitoring fuel and diagnosing malfunctions on the aircraft, said Sgt. Keith Pinkard, flight instructor, A. Co., TF Eagle Assault. They conduct their training at different stages to ensure all bases are covered. This training is known as readiness level training. It consists of individual, mission related and advanced skills. The training can include mock air assaults, personnel recovery and multiple airframe operations, said Pinkard. After completing a training event, Pfc. Jonathan Tillery, crew chief, A Co., TF Eagle Assault, said he felt more confident in his calling, gunnery and overall crew chief abilities. "We're not all work, even though we do take our job and the environment we are in very seriously," said Rambo. "We do other things too -- like hold competitions." The task force is having a marksmanship competition to challenge their Soldiers to brush up on their marksmanship skills. "All of the companies have been afforded the opportunity and allocated enough training ammunition to go out and maintain or improve their proficiency," said Rambo. While TF Eagle Assault is advancing their Soldiers with training exercises, every day in combat is a training experience. "We are constantly learning," said Rambo. "Every day we are trying to get better. The harder we work at that, the safer we are going to be on the battlefield." However, there is no reason to relax and settle for the knowledge we have already retained or training we have already conducted. "We don't want to sit back and be happy with the way things are," said Rambo. "We always want to get better."