By Andrea Sutherland (Fort Carson)August 16, 2012
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- As Soldiers milled about the motor pool at Camp Red Devil Aug. 8, the 4th Engineer Battalion commander paced the gravel lot, picking up stones and chucking them to pass the time.
"Going in, this being their first (mission), I'd give them a C-minus," said Lt. Col. Daniel Hibner. "There's an Army saying that you learn by mindless repetition or blunt force trauma. They're going to get both in the next couple of weeks. By the end of this, they will be ready."
For 10 days, Soldiers of the 62nd Sapper Company, 4th Eng. Bn., performed route clearance missions in preparation for an upcoming rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., and a subsequent deployment to Afghanistan in 2013.
And while performance in training missions was important, for Hibner, preparation was equally essential.
"That's the hardest thing getting through to a platoon leader is that if one thing is wrong, you can't go out," said Hibner, listing communications and weapons systems checks as well as medevac and maintenance recovery plans as necessary steps for mission readiness.
Maj. John McNamara, operations officer, 4th Eng. Bn., agreed.
"If you rush preparation, you rush into failure," he said. McNamara and Hibner deliberately arrived at the training site early to review the preparation procedures of the unit.
"There's a lot of good things going on," said Hibner. "This is a lesson for the (platoon leader) to take away -- it takes more time to do checks and inspections and they have to build in that time."
Hibner said he learned the importance of preparing for missions as a company commander at Fort Stewart, Ga.
"After I started emphasizing preparation, I saw my company get better," he said. "It instills confidence. … you never want to leave the wire with a question mark."
For Hibner, preparing for a new mission begins as soon as the current mission ends.
Prior to departing, platoon leaders brief Soldiers on the mission, including routes, weather, terrain and enemy forces. Soldiers inspect vehicles, weapons and radios to ensure their tools are working properly. Platoons then rehearse missions, practicing various scenarios should they be attacked.
"The first time you react to enemy contact should be before the line of departure," Hibner said. "In order for the platoon rehearsal to be successful, lower level rehearsals down to the squad have to take place."
After briefing his platoon at 8:30 a.m., 2nd Lt. Matt Ryan, platoon leader, 2nd Platoon, 62nd Sapper Company, said he was grateful for the feedback from his battalion commander.
"It was great," he said. "They have a lot of input based on their experience."
Under Hibner's watchful eye, 2nd Platoon prepared for its mission. After an hour and 15 minutes, though, rehearsals still hadn't taken place.
"The pressure should be mounting," Hibner said, checking his watch. "Now (Ryan) should be thinking how he can adapt."
For combat engineers, leaving for missions on time is crucial in combat zones.
"Route clearance is vital for every other unit operations," Hibner said. "You can't not go out because of bad weather or your medevac is out. You have to be able to mitigate and prepare for an alternative. … The mission is constant."
Ten minutes before their mission was to begin, 2nd Platoon began simulated rehearsals, forgoing practice with vehicles.
At 10:20 a.m., 20 minutes after they were supposed to depart, the convoy left the wire.
"The great thing about doing this now is that it's early (in the training)," Hibner said. "It's all about learning and improving. This (practice) benefits everyone."