FORT BENNING, Ga. (Oct. 17, 2012) -- Urban operations -- for Infantrymen, it's a foundational skill they'll use frequently throughout their careers. For the 210 Infantrymen in F Company, 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, it's the newest skill they've learned.

The one-station unit training company just completed four days of urban operations exercises. Day 1 covered a basic introduction to the task, while Day 2 featured single-room buildings and "glass houses" -- engineer tape on the ground in the shape of rooms that lets Soldiers practice maneuvering. By the third day, Soldiers were clearing multi-room buildings, stairways and hallways using blank rounds. The final day incorporated a mission-based scenario, hand-to-hand combat and simulation rounds.

"We're wrapping everything up," said Staff Sgt. Brett Macy, senior drill sergeant with the company. "Their teamwork, their communication, even their marksmanship, all of that ties into one. It's a lot of information to take in, and it's a lot of movements to bring together. It starts off really slow, but by the end of it, they really grasp it."

Covered in the seventh week of the 15-week course, urban operations will also be included in the Soldiers' final training exercise, a weeklong event that covers everything they have learned. Set for mid-November, it is one of the culminating exercises before the students' graduation Dec.7

Pvt. Nicholas Hanson, 4th Platoon, said urban operations training was "fast-paced."

"It's a lot to keep track of," he said. "When you do it a few times in one position, you're like, 'All right, I got this.' You move to a different (position), then you realize one step is completely different. You can find yourself getting used to stepping left and you end up stepping left and you're in your buddy's lane, and that's an immediate flag -- and in real life that's a shot to the back of the head."

That's why, Hanson said, they practice entering and clearing rooms over and over again.

"Repetition equals perfection," he said. "We do it 100 times here, that means we get 100 times of training. Each time we get better and better to the point where it's muscle memory, so when we get out there downrange, there's no mistake; we all come home.

"What we've been practicing is picture what you're about to do twice, three times, four times, so before you do it you've already done it mentally."

This visualization technique is a tenant of Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness, taught to Sand Hill Soldiers throughout the basic training. The final of the five mental skills listed in the Performance Enhancement Education Model, Integrating Imagery involves intentional "mental rehearsals" of tasks before completing them.

Hanson said the urban operations training wasn't merely physical but very much a mental exercise as well.
Macy said that in theater, Soldiers must be agile and adaptive, so the training included aspects that require critical thinking, such as targets in the rooms dressed as friend or foe. Soldiers have to make a careful assessment before deciding how to act, he said.

Wilson Village, where much of the training took place, features complex elements such as false walls, hidden compartments and tunnels leading from one room to another.

"What we tell these privates is no two rooms are the same, and that's exactly how it is here and that's exactly how it is in combat," Macy said. "Every Infantry Soldier is going to clear rooms and houses once they end up getting deployed, so if they don't get that base knowledge here, then they're going to get to their unit and they're going to be left behind. Not only that, I'd say about 10 percent of these guys, as soon as they leave here, they're going to go to a unit that's already deployed."

Spc. Matthew Batzel, who chose the Special Forces Enlistment Option when he joined the Army, said the realistic urban operations training helped him feel more ready to fill his role as a Soldier.

"We haven't done anything quite like this yet," he said. "This is the exciting stuff. This is why a lot of people joined. The little things are starting to make sense -- why we do certain things. I definitely feel more comfortable becoming a Soldier."

Pfc. Adrian Frey, 3rd Platoon, said the past seven weeks of training and in particular the urban operations exercises have taught him how to move as a team with efficiency and purpose.

"This is what we're going to use every day while we're deployed," he said. "It's actually changed me and my perspective and thinking about my fellow teammates and my fellow Soldiers. We're going to end up going somewhere where we've never been before and all we're going to have is our teammates -- our Family now. It's a life changer."