New Training, Same Standards: South Carolina Army National Guard Soldiers Keep Sharp on Deployment
1 / 11 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Soldiers of A Company, 4th Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment move out to clear buildings and a trench system as part of a platoon live-fire exercise at the Udairi Range Complex in northern Kuwait, July 31, 2012. In addition to undertaking camp and s... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
New Training, Same Standards: South Carolina Army National Guard Soldiers Keep Sharp on Deployment
2 / 11 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Soldiers of Company A, 4th Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment form up to enter and clear a building as part of a platoon live-fire exercise at the Udairi Range Complex in northern Kuwait, July 31, 2012. The Soldiers also cleared a trench system durin... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
New Training, Same Standards: South Carolina Army National Guard Soldiers Keep Sharp on Deployment
3 / 11 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Soldiers of Company A, 4th Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment enter a building to begin clearing it as part of a platoon live-fire exercise at the Udairi Range Complex in northern Kuwait, July 31, 2012. The Soldiers also cleared a trench system durin... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
New Training, Same Standards: South Carolina Army National Guard Soldiers Keep Sharp on Deployment
4 / 11 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Spc. James Foster (left), Spc. Josiah Johnson (middle) and Spc. Jerry Stewart (right), line up in the stack formation while clearing a building as part of a platoon live-fire exercise at the Udairi Range Complex in northern Kuwait, July 31, 2012. The... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
New Training, Same Standards: South Carolina Army National Guard Soldiers Keep Sharp on Deployment
5 / 11 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Spc. Charles Doward (left), and 1st Lt. Matthew Walters (right) and another Soldier of A Company, 4th Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment jog toward a building they're tasked to clear as part of a platoon live-fire exercise at the Udairi Range Complex... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
New Training, Same Standards: South Carolina Army National Guard Soldiers Keep Sharp on Deployment
6 / 11 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Soldiers of A Company, 4th Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment jog to their next objective during a platoon live-fire exercise at the Udairi Range Complex in northern Kuwait, July 31, 2012. The Soldiers cleared buildings and a trench complex during th... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
New Training, Same Standards: South Carolina Army National Guard Soldiers Keep Sharp on Deployment
7 / 11 Show Caption + Hide Caption – After clearing a building, Soldiers of A Company, 4th Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment rush out to clear a trench system, their next objective during a platoon live-fire exercise at the Udairi Range Complex in northern Kuwait, July 31, 2012. In add... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
New Training, Same Standards: South Carolina Army National Guard Soldiers Keep Sharp on Deployment
8 / 11 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Soldiers of A Company, 4th Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment engage targets after assaulting and clearing a trench system, one of their objectives during a platoon live-fire exercise at the Udairi Range Complex in northern Kuwait, July 31, 2012. The... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
New Training, Same Standards: South Carolina Army National Guard Soldiers Keep Sharp on Deployment
9 / 11 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Soldiers of A Company, 4th Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment engage targets after assaulting and clearing a trench system, one of their objectives during a platoon live-fire exercise at the Udairi Range Complex in northern Kuwait, July 31, 2012. The... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
New Training, Same Standards: South Carolina Army National Guard Soldiers Keep Sharp on Deployment
10 / 11 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Spc. Josiah Johnson, of A Company, 4th Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment, poses after he and other battalion Soldiers completed a platoon live-fire exercise at the Udairi Range Complex in northern Kuwait, July 31, 2012. The Soldiers assaulted and cl... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
New Training, Same Standards: South Carolina Army National Guard Soldiers Keep Sharp on Deployment
11 / 11 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Soldiers of Company A, 4th Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment engage targets during a platoon live-fire exercise at the Udairi Range Complex in northern Kuwait, July 31, 2012. The Soldiers also cleared buildings and a trench system during the exercis... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

CAMP BUEHRING, KUWAIT (Aug. 19, 2012) -- Like the flag and standard bearers of old, the 4th Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment Soldiers with the progress poles -- a piece of bright or reflective material atop a short staff -- let their fellow troops know exactly where they were during platoon live-fire exercises at the Udairi Range in late July and early August.

But progress and upholding Army training standards are just some of the things these South Carolina Army National Guard Soldiers have been doing since deploying to Kuwait in April. The live-fire exercises, which involved clearing buildings and assaulting a trench system, were both a refresher and a step forward for his troops, said Capt. Brian Pinson, commander of A Company, 4th Battalion.

"We're increasing our proficiencies and increasing our skill sets," said Pinson, who is from Greenwood, S.C. While assuming security-force and camp operations in northern Kuwait, battalion troops have kept up the pace of training with various exercises, including embassy-defense scenarios in May and other live-fire exercises.

Though they had conducted similar live-fire exercises at the National Training Center in California and Camp Shelby, Miss., prior to deploying, the Soldiers began a fresh cycle of live-fire exercises after arriving in Kuwait, with team live-fire exercises, then moving on to squad and platoon live-fire exercises.

Like the other training events, the platoon live-fire exercises tested the Soldiers' ability to shoot and maneuver as a unit, the ability of teams and squads to cover each other with fire superiority and the ability of leaders -- at all levels -- to command and control the troops, said Pinson.

"Doing live-fire exercises builds confidence," Pinson said, adding that though his troops are skilled at clearing buildings and fire and maneuver, clearing a trench system is relatively new for most of them. An assault on a trench system must be fast, violent and smooth, and the troops must "flow through there like water," he explained.

"Clearing a trench is a whole different ballgame," said 1st Lt. Robert Barnes, the 2nd platoon leader of A Company, who is from Spartanburg, S.C.

Company A troops went through the live-fire exercise, July 31. Spread out in two mutually supporting squads, the troops stepped out across the soft desert sand, and then began trotting toward the buildings they were tasked to clear.

At the building entrances the troops deftly fell into the "stack" -- the distinctive file formation used to enter and move through structures and rooms. Once inside, the troops engaged targets and cleared all the rooms and spaces. The sharp, loud sounds of the controlled shooting contrasted with the voices of the troops, who coordinated with each other in measured, even tones as they snaked through the maze-like structures.

Maintaining their momentum, the troops moved on to the trench system, which was roughly 100 yards beyond the buildings. Though not large, the system was no simple ditch either. About shoulder-deep and reinforced with sandbags, the system also had bunkers and branched from one trench into two others at a "Y" intersection.

That intersection made clearing the system a challenge, said 1st Lt. Robert Hartman III, 1st Platoon leader of Company A, who is from Columbia, S.C.

"It takes coordination between two different squads," Hartman said. "That was the most critical part, I think, in terms of safety and risk."

Progress poles are an important part of that coordination, Pinson and Hartman went on to explain. Company's A progress poles, fashioned from whip-antenna sections, were attached to individual Soldiers' equipment and extended when the assault troops breached the trench.

As the name implies, the highly-visible progress poles showed the assault element's progress and location as they cleared the trench system. Some of Company A's progress poles resembled small flags, bobbing above the trench parapet during the assault.

Using the poles as guides, Soldiers of the support element knew where to safely provide covering fire for the assault element. That includes the Soldier firing the M240B machine gun, Hartman stressed.

"That lets the 240 gunner know when to lift and shift on the breach point," Hartman said. "He's shooting ahead of them as they progress through the trench."

Pinson's explanation of the progress pole was even blunter.

"It's a control measure so you don't get shot," he said, adding that they also used other control measures like radios and smoke.

Pinson and Hartman said the exercise was successful overall, though Pinson said his troops need to refine their trench-clearing techniques. Hartman added that he's proud of how his troops performed, but stressed that all this training is perishable.

"We're basically keeping it fresh in our minds," Hartman said. "That's why it's important that we do this. Practice doesn't make permanent, but it makes prominent. But perfect practice makes perfect."

Sgt. Brian Wingard, a team leader in Company A's third platoon, led a trench-breaching team during the exercise. He was also pleased with the exercise overall.

"I was kind of impressed with the guys, and with the speed they went through it," said Wingard, of Greenville, S.C. The trench system was a challenge, he added.

A veteran of Iraq, Wingard reflected on the training and his experiences.

"Some of this is kind of redundant, for the guys who have been in combat," he said. "For others, it's new."

Practicing basic tactics like they did on the live-fire exercise is important, but those who've used those tactics in combat never forget them, Wingard said.

"In the infantry, you've either got it or you don't," he said.

Related Links:

Third Army/U.S. Army Central

S.C. Army National Guard Soldiers partner with Kuwaiti National Guard

Army.mil: Middle East News

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Third Army/U.S. Army Central on Facebook