By Sgt. Robert Yde, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public AffairsMay 22, 2008
FORT HOOD, Texas - First Cavalry Division Soldiers who were expecting life to slow down after they returned home from their 15-month deployment in Iraq earlier this year have found that the train-up for their next deployment has quickly laid those hopes to rest.
"We're pretty much at crunch time right now," Spc. Jorge Torres, who is assigned to the Company B, 15th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, said. "As soon as we came back, we got a lot of new guys and pretty much hit boots on the ground running."
Over half of the Soldiers in Torres' platoon are brand new to the Army and getting them up to speed with the unit's combat veterans in the short amount of time they have available is the unit's priority.
The first step toward this goal is making sure that the Soldiers are proficient in several individual tasks and skills, and this was the focus of Co. B's two-part training during the week of May 12.
Over the course of several days that week the Soldiers met at their motor pool where they received classes and were tested on various activities such as proper radio protocol, performing a hasty vehicle recovery and combat life saving (CLS) skills.
"These are key warrior skills," platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Newton Rose explained. "We'll put them all together and then roll out, but the focus is on mainly individual tasks."
The second part of the training was to serve as a culmination of the morning trainings as all these tasks and skills were put into use during a convoy lane conducted during the afternoon.
"They'll have scenarios that will require different Soldiers when called upon to perform different individual tasks," the Bronx, N.Y. native explained. "Then the commander will make her assessment from there to say whether or not we're trained in this area or if we still need a little bit more practice."
For the majority of Rose's Soldiers, such as Saratoga, N.Y. native, Pvt. Matthew Powers, this was the first time that they had received training on many of these skills.
Powers arrived to the unit in April after completing his advanced individual training at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala., and said that since the day he arrived to the "Gambler" Battalion his noncommissioned officers have taken him under their wings and made the transition from being a Soldier in training easy for him.
"It was a different environment for me because in basic and AIT (Advanced Individual Training), sergeants were kind of hard on you, but when I got to my unit they took care of me," he said. "They're taking care of me now, and I'm getting some extra training on things that I didn't know before."
Powers added that not only are the NCOs and other combat veterans making sure that he is properly trained, but they also recount their own combat experiences to him, which he said helps prepare him mentally for the upcoming deployment, as well as add to the importance of the training.
"The NCOs are giving us their experiences from when they were over in Iraq and helping us realize that what we're learning right now is important," he said.
Torres said that so far he has been impressed with how well Powers and the other new Soldiers have picked up on many of these essential combat skills.
"They're doing pretty good, and they're catching on fast," the Louisville, Ky. native said. "We're in garrison, but we've got to get their minds' set to the fact that in eight months we are going to be over in a combat zone and we are going to be in a situation where time permits very little for you."
He admitted that while integrating these new Soldiers into the unit is a work in progress, Torres said that having the Soldiers successfully complete the convoy lane would be a major step in their progression.
"We'll have the NCOs as [truck commanders] and we'll have the combat veterans, specialists like myself, driving," he said. "So pretty much our main objective will just be to drive and the new guys will be going out and doing the hasty recoveries on these vehicles. We'll have the new guys going out and conducting the CLS for their fallen comrades. We'll also have them identifying and sending up the reports."
As Soldiers in a support battalion, who could potentially be spending much of their time in Iraq on the road, Torres said it's crucial that each of them be familiar with these skills, and as he sees his unit's newer Soldiers becoming a little more comfortable in their roles everyday, Torres said that he takes his role as a mentor very seriously because you never know who you may have to count on in combat.
"When we go over there, we depend on everybody," he said. "It doesn't matter if you're an E-1 or an E-9, we all depend on each other and because we depend on each other so much we want to make sure that they get ever single bit of training that they can possibly get in the time that we have."
From what he's seen so far, though, Torres said he has no worries about what his unit will be capable of.
"I'm highly confident in our new Soldiers as well as our veterans," he said "We all train really hard and I believe that we'll do great. I think we'll do great today, I think we'll do great tomorrow, all the way to the day that we go over and we'll excel at everything that we do over there."