By Cheryl RodewigApril 4, 2012
FORT BENNING, Ga. (April 4, 2012) -- The home of the Maneuver Center of Excellence is living up to its name with the inclusion of Armor instruction in the Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course. Part of a pilot program for 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment, the training includes learning Armor basics in the classroom and in the field.
"The first time they see tanks shouldn't be downtown Fallujah or some place in Afghanistan," said Lt. Col. Mark Hollis, battalion commander. "This is introduction to Armor integration and understanding additional assets they have out in the battlefield. The key piece here is, 'Can they actually synchronize assets in time and space to close with and destroy the enemy?'-- and the assets might include Armor."
Hollis said it was the first time this type of training has been conducted on post, but he hopes the initiative continues.
"IBOLC continues to look for better ways to accomplish combined arms training," he said, "and this is just one of their endeavors."
Students in D Company put their instruction into practice with a situational training exercise Wednesday and Thursday on Selby Range. Incorporating a mounted scout section and a tank section, the Infantry lieutenants led platoon-sized attacks on an urban environment to clear five buildings and eliminate enemy combatants.
"Urban operations week is one of the building blocks for their company culminating event," Hollis said. "Their culminating event is a company-level operation. They have a 16-mile foot march into an attack on an urban environment with Armor setting the conditions for the Infantry to move in and seize a portion of the urban center."
Second Lt. Darren Johnson, who acted as platoon leader for Thursday's simulated attack, said it was the first time he'd ever seen a tank fire, let alone conducted a mission with one.
"You have to have a lot of planning ahead of time to coordinate how you're going to initiate and how you're going to integrate each element," he said. "But the Armor platoon leader and the scout sergeants, they made it really easy. They have more experience than I do, so they were able to provide guidance."
Leadership sometimes means deferring to the subject matter experts, said Capt. Scott Brown, senior platoon trainer for 4th Platoon.
As the platoon trainer for both this cycle and the previous for D Company, Brown has seen the urban operations exercise performed with and without Armor elements.
"The main difference," he said, "is the number of things the platoon leader has to actually coordinate with. He has to integrate an asset he's not familiar with, quickly learn the capabilities of it and figure out how to best employ it."
To do so accurately and speedily, Infantry platoon leaders must consult with Armor leaders.
"Synchronizing the assets in time and space, they have to think a lot bigger," Brown said. "If I'm a normal rifleman, my support-by-fire position might be a foot off the ground, but that tank's sight and gun is several feet up in the air. It moves so much faster and can see so much farther. That tank can move half a mile in less than a minute, where moving the Infantry platoon through the same terrain takes maybe an hour. They're having to work all this on a much bigger scale."
Several hours of planning went into the execution of the combined arms mission conducted by 3rd Platoon.
"This is the first time a platoon leader in this course at Week 12 is dealing with this many assets," said Capt. Paul Cheval, platoon trainer. "You've got an Armored unit, Humvees, scouts. It's a pretty complex operation. There are so many learning points. I think the biggest thing they can take from this is that when you have attachments or outside support, it's really important, for it to be successful, that you take the time to rehearse everything."
Platoon leaders, both Armor and Infantry, tank operators, scouts and others involved in the mission drafted the details out on a sand table the day before the exercise.
First Lt. Dennis Gable, platoon leader for Armor Proficiency and Excellence Platoon, 1st Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment, called the full-spectrum training a valuable "exchange" between Armor and Infantry.
"We have our Cavalry scouts out here doing scout missions, so the Infantry know what they're getting into when they get the mission, and then we're integrating tanks as well, so they can see what the capabilities are of the M1A2 Abrams," he said. "It gives us an opportunity to refresh some of our tactical skills (and) learn by teaching. Meanwhile, we're also learning from the Infantry more about what the Infantry side does."
2nd Lt Kyle Callaghan, 3rd Platoon, said he's glad to be among the first to receive this type of integrated training.
"It's definitely a unique experience," he said. "It's good to get that experience before we get out to our units, get overseas."
The 167 lieutenants of D Company are set to graduate April 26. The next cycle of IBOLC students will be the first to integrate Armor elements into their platoon live fire.