By Capt. Olivia Cobiskey, 205th Infantry BrigadeNovember 9, 2012
Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center, Ind. -- It's an exotic dance. The men try to grab the Soldiers' feet. SLAM! The lite weight practice shields hit the ground. Another man takes a running start at the middle of the formation, and the Soldiers lean their practice shields forward, blocking him. Finally, someone throws a gravel-filled bottle at a Soldier's head; the plastic shield comes up, just enough -- and in time -- to deflect it.
The Soldiers aren't in any real danger today. But the realistic training they receive from First Army Division East trainers now, before they deploy to the Sinai could keep them from being hurt or worse in the future.
Master Sgt. Tim Stevens, a trainer mentor with the 3-338th Training Support Battalion, 157th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East, cautioned Soldiers to keep their shields positioned for protection, but at the same time, cautioned them to hold the shields so they couldn't be used as a weapon against the Soldier.
"The actual armored shields weigh 20 to 25 pounds, and they will daze you, if they hit you in the head," he warned.
As Stevens talked, he tested how well Spc. Kwanetta Blackwell, Alpha Battery, 5-113th Field Artillery Regiment, resisted his efforts during a non-lethal weapons training exercise at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center, Ind.
The training enhanced the skills of Soldiers in the 5th Battalion, 113th Field Artillery Regiment, N.C. National Guard. The NC unit began the final phase of their pre-mobilization training for a rotation in support of the Multinational Force and Observers mission in the Sinai, said Master Sgt. Jeff Conner, trainer mentor also with the 3-338th TSB.
Soldiers off in small groups to help them build effective communication and tactics before organizing them into platoon or larger size elements, Conner explained.
"They learn to keep positive control of the situation. We give them alternative ways to react and teach them how to deescalate these situations before they become lethal," Conner said. "We have to adapt traditional training to cater to the MFO mission, which includes crowd control and relationship building."
The Multinational Force and Observers is an independent international organization created by agreement between Egypt and Israel to supervise the implementation of the security provisions of the Treaty of Peace and employ best efforts to prevent any violation of its terms.
The ability of these units to communicate is key, agreed Maj. Jay Watkins, operations office with the 1-335th Infantry Regiment. In the Sinai, U.S. forces work with various partner states -- Australia, Canada, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Fiji, France, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, and Uruguay -- who all provide military personnel and perform specific and specialized tasks.
The training for this mission is not the typical training Soldiers have received before deploying to places like Iraq or Afghanistan, Watkins said.
"The environment [in the Sinai] is not quite as kinetic, but there is always a potential threat in a foreign land. The scenarios that are replicated are as close as possible to situations the Soldiers may see while deployed," said Watkins, from Henderson, Ky. "Here at Camp Atterbury, we have certified experts trained to teach how to properly escalate force when necessary and also how to use all of the non-lethal devices properly."
Those devices include riot gear like personal armor, batons, shields, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and flexible baton rounds.
Obviously, Soldiers do not want to use these; however, being prepared for any possibility is part of military training and ensures the safety of our Soldiers and state team members, Watkins continued.
"If they do have an incident, they can minimize the threat to keep it from becoming lethal," agreed Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Melton, a 157th Inf. Bde., non-lethal weapons noncommissioned officer. "The rules of engagement continue to evolve to meet the current political situation."
Since 2002 the National Guard has supported nine-month deployment rotations to ensure the provisions of the Egypt-Israel Treaty, signed in 1979, are met and peace is maintained in the region.
"We have to train the unit to always prepare for the worst, but also to use escalation of force when necessary," Watkins said.