By Sgt. Thomas Duval, 1-25th Stryker Brigade Combat Team Public AffairsOctober 13, 2011
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Oct. 13, 2011 -- Combat vehicles take a beating here; whether it's from improvised explosive devices or this country's rugged terrain. When a vehicle gets stuck or severely damaged, it becomes inoperable or "deadlined," making it difficult to move off the battlefield.
Soldiers deployed to Kandahar Airfield with the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, the "Arctic Wolves," recently honed their ability to tackle that problem in a wheeled vehicle recovery course Sept. 26-28.
"The Hotel 8 course is designed to provide recovery Soldiers with the tools to perform combat recovery operations safely and efficiently," said Lt. Col. John McMurray, commander of 25th Brigade Support Battalion.
The course was offered to light and heavy-wheeled mechanics and included both classroom instruction and hands-on practice. The three-day course encompassed more than 80 hours of training focused on rigging, recovering and towing wheeled vehicles.
"The course allows Soldiers to refresh on techniques that they may not use every day while allowing them to learn new equipment," said Pfc. Brandon Locke, a mechanic assigned to the 1/25 SBCT.
"This course is an 80-hour program of instruction that not only challenges the Soldiers academically, but also provides some of the best hands-on recovery instruction a commander could ask for," McMurray said.
The field exercise was the highlight of the event and it required Soldiers to use their hands-on training to successfully recover a tractor trailer from a large mud-filled "mire pit."
The dirt and water mixture, combined with heavy equipment proved to be a mechanic's dream.
"It was awesome to get out there and have a little bit of fun while still doing some good high-speed training," Locke said with a laugh.
Although the course was enjoyable for most of the mechanics it wasn't all fun and games, according to Locke. He said the lessons learned were well earned and will translate to mission success on the battlefield.
After graduating the course Soldiers received an Army additional skill identifier known as H8.
The H8 identifier is a benchmark very few reach, according to Locke.
"The course puts you above everybody else in your class," Locke said.
This was only the second time that the course was offered at Kandahar Airfield, or KAF. Soldiers in Afghanistan usually have to travel further afield to take it.
McMurray brought the program to KAF to increase awareness, efficiency and the overall survivability of both Soldiers and vehicles in a combat environment.
McMurray and the 25th BSB hope to offer the course more often and continue to improve safety and survivability of each Soldier and piece of equipment through similar training opportunities.
"As we go into the rainy season here in Afghanistan, or as we call it here in the 25th BSB, 'Stryker recovery season,' I am confident that I have the best 24 H8 qualified recovery specialists on the battlefield," McMurray said.