FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- For the first time, the five-day field training exercise that culminates 12 weeks of Advanced Individual Training for wheeled vehicle mechanics took place as a company-level, rather than a platoon-level event. The change allowed the Soldiers to train realistic scenarios instead of individual tasks.

"Instead of the Soldiers going out to the field and basically feeling like they're in a classroom environment but just in the field, we're putting them in the mindset that they are deploying," said Capt. LaToya Guest, commander of Company B, 187th Ordnance Battalion, which was the first company to execute the new training.

To start the exercise, Soldiers had to set up a forward operating base and control center. They were then issued orders that moved them from one event to the next, where they had to react to a number of different scenarios.

"We're trying to make it as realistic as possible," Guest said.

For example, Soldiers embarked on a convoy and encountered unexploded ordnance, a simulated IED explosion and direct fire from Soldiers acting as enemy forces.

"We have the Soldiers-in-training loading up in humvees, keeping communications with everybody in the convoy to include the (operation center) when they reach checkpoints, just so they can just feel like this is like real life," Guest said.

Other training events included maintenance tasks, urban operations and warrior tasks and battle drills.
Lt. Col. Darrell Aubrey, 187th commander, said the new training concept prepares the Soldiers better for integration with the operational Army.

"If the Soldiers go to the field as a unit, operate under the same operations that they would have if they were in a 'normal' unit, which is what we're training them to go do, then they see how they interact with the platoon sergeant (and) squad leader," Aubrey said. "Before, it was just too disjointed. It reminded me of the old (common task) training, which I hated. You just go out to the field, do a task and walk away. This way, there's a reason behind what you're doing. The Soldier understands the importance of it. The squad leader understands how to lead Soldiers. And the company (leaders) understand how to lead units. So it's just better all the way around."

He explained that the training is also an opportunity to hone the skills of squad, platoon and company leaders in the 187th.

"I want to make all the training we do a leadership development opportunity as well as a training opportunity for the Soldiers," he said. "If we make the leaders better, the training for the Soldiers will become better."