By Spc. Kimberly Hackbarth, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat TeamJune 29, 2011
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash., June 30, 2011 -- Hidden behind clusters of yellow and purple flowers, a squad was ready.
Seconds later, a smoke bomb flew through the air and hit the ground, exploding into a green, smoky cover for the breaching element that cut the wire on the enemy compound, allowing the rest of their platoon charge through.
Soldiers of 2nd Platoon, Company C, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment conducted a platoon live-fire certification June 22, 2011, on a training range here.
As the last hurrah for the platoon before deploying to Singapore to participate in Exercise Tiger Balm, a bilateral training exercise between the United States and Singaporean armies, the live-fire provided an opportunity for the men to build a stronger bond within the platoon and hone their Soldier skills.
“The purpose of the exercise is to evaluate our ability to operate not just as a platoon, but combined, using our internal and external assets such as mortars and our scouts and snipers from battalion and integrating them into our planning and execution of the mission,” said Sgt. Dustin Carden, a squad leader in 2nd Plt.
The deployment is an opportunity for the platoon to work with a different country’s military force.
“We are going over there to augment a Singaporean infantry company,” said 1st Lt. Nathan Gadberry, the platoon leader. “We’ll conduct a company assault on a mounted objective in an urban area.”
“We’re also there to help refine [standard operating procedures] on mounted operations with their Terrex vehicles,” he added. “It’s their equivalent to a Stryker.”
Sgt. Joseph MacDonald, a squad leader in the platoon, said he views the future training as a learning experience for his unit.
“We’ll see what they know that we don’t know or how they do something differently as well as them being able to learn from us,” he said.
As part of certification for Singapore, the battalion commander certified the platoon by observing the entire mission evaluating them on their combat tasks.
However, he wasn’t the only one watching.
Everyone in the platoon’s chain of command -- from the company commander to the brigade commander -- came out to witness the live-fire.
MacDonald said the pressure of being so closely scrutinized during a certification is expected.
“The point is to be stressed out and to be pushed out of your element so they are able to see how you react and what decisions you make when everything is on you,” he said.
MacDonald’s squad was the breaching element and cut the concertina wire surrounding the simulated enemy compound in order for Carden’s squad to spearhead the assault.
“There’s nothing better than a live-fire to help build confidence, especially in these younger Soldiers,” said Carden.
One young Soldier, Pvt. Jordan Bautch, a driver, gained more confidence in his ability to operate a Stryker.
Bautch recently received his Stryker license and spent the preparation period leading up to the live-fire practicing his driver skills.
Following the brigade’s Expert Infantryman Badge testing in April, an event based on completing individual tasks, it took Bautch time to reintegrate back into team missions.
“It was a lot more stressful, honestly, because before you’ve just got yourself to worry about,” he said. “Now I’m [worrying] about everyone in the truck.”
While in recent years most Soldiers’ first deployments have been to a combat zone, Bautch, who said he never even left the Midwest until he joined the Army, will travel to Singapore.
“I’m pumped for it,” he said. “I want to go see different countries, that’s one of the reasons I joined the Army.”