By Staff Sgt. Amanda Boersma, USCAPOC(A) PAOFebruary 4, 2011
San Diego - "If you provide the soldier with good training and good opportunities, they will stay," said Maj. Aaron Clapsaddle, the commander for the 301st Tactical Psychological Operations Company, located in San Diego.
You will not find this company at their Reserve center during most monthly Battle Assemblies. This January's Battle Assembly was no exception. The company conducted multiple airborne operations to include a mass tactical night combat jump, familiarization with multiple weapon systems, and a combat day jump at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
Normally, preparation for these fast-paced Battle Assemblies begins 60-90 days before the training weekend; however, this weekend's preparation began seven months prior to the Battle Assembly.
This type of training takes teamwork in order to be effective. Staff Sgt. Evan Paulsen, the company's training sergeant, led the way while planning this Battle Assembly.
"We have to coordinate a lot of moving pieces to include air crews, drop zones, securing ranges and getting our parachutes from Georgia," said Paulsen. "Finding aircraft is most difficult because we could not utilize Air Force support due to funding and the small size of our company. Therefore, extra time is needed to search for other aircraft and crew support."
The 301st TPC is on a continuous deployment schedule. This constant rotation of soldiers must be considered when making their training plans for the fiscal year. First Sgt. Keith Christie, 301st TPC first sergeant, gives credit to his NCO's who always ensure each soldier is trained on the core soldier tasks at an advanced level in order to maintain fluidity with their incessant deployments.
"The NCO's in this company are high-caliber, highly motivated and dedicated soldiers who are extremely knowledgeable," said Christie.
After this weekend's training, as with any training weekend, Christie hopes that his soldiers have a sense of accomplishment and pride that they are bettering themselves by having a skill set that will help them in a combat situation.
Most Army Reserve units begin their monthly Battle Assembly on Saturday morning, but, the 301st TPC begin theirs on Friday in order to increase training time for the soldiers.
"Obviously, we do more here than the traditional one weekend a month," said Christie. Next fiscal year, the company plans to reduce the number of monthly Battle Assemblies in order to increase the number of days to maximize the training opportunities.
This month's Battle Assembly began Friday morning when soldiers conducted Sustained Airborne Training at the Reserve Center. That afternoon they took a Marine KC-130 to Edwards Air Force Base and performed a mass tactical night combat jump onto Farm Drop Zone with below freezing temperatures that greeted them at the door of the KC-130 as they exited.
The next morning came early in order to begin their weapon system familiarization. The 301st TPC qualified with the M9 pistol and received familiarization training on the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, 240B Machine Gun and the M203 Grenade Launcher. That evening they rehearsed Sustained Airborne Training to prepare for the morning's combat jump into San Diego.
To wrap up the weekend, the 301st reloaded back on the Marine KC-130 on Sunday morning and flew back to San Diego, performing a combat day jump onto the Trident Drop Zone near the Mexican border.
Staff Sgt. Eric Bolas has been with the company since he joined the military.
"I've stayed here, because I like being a PSYOP soldier, and I like this unit. When I first joined this company, we operated as a Special Operations Force and we still maintain that mentality, because we never know who we will be attached to or where we will go," said Bolas.
"The key to this unit is retention, we don't lose soldiers. Also it has a history of strong leaders ... it's infectious. When we go places, soldiers see us and they want to join, we are our own ad campaign," said Clapsaddle.
The 301st TPC is a member of the 14th Psychological Operations Battalion and the 7th Psychological Operations Group, both headquartered at Moffett Field in San Jose, Calif.
The 301st TPC has future plans to conduct more Airborne operations during their monthly Battle Assemblies that will also encompass tactical PSYOP skills, high-altitude mountaineering training with the Marines and more, enabling them to engage anywhere in the world.