Exercise trains 'Copperhead' Soldiers

By Staff Sgt. Timothy Hughes, 75th Fires BrigadeFebruary 21, 2013

Copperhead March
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FORT SILL, Okla.-- Servicemembers assigned to 1st Battalion, 17th Field Artillery, known as the Copperhead Battalion, trained in a platoon-level field exercise Jan. 28 through Feb. 6, here.

The exercise, dubbed the "Copperhead March," broke away from routine crew-certification training and focused on the basic soldiering skills that every Soldier must hone.

"We exercised some of the battle drills that we hadn't done as a smaller element," said Command Sgt. Maj. George Bullard, senior enlisted adviser to the battalion commander.

The field exercise started on the west side of the installation in training areas and culminated on the east side of Fort Sill.

In addition to artillery-propelling vehicles, fire direction centers and forward observers, the exercise featured a tactical operations center and a tactical alternate center; both of which shared command and control responsibilities.

Sgt. Lance Espinoza, human resource noncommissioned officer, said the purpose of having the TOC and TAC was to allow the latter to break away from the TOC and move to a different location when the headquarters element needed to relocate to a new position. The movement is commonly referred to as a bounding technique.

Over the 10-day period, Soldiers trained during the day and at night, whether under a canopy of clouds, warmed by the heat of the sun on an unusually warm Fort Sill winter day, or dressed in layers of cold weather gear.

"We see the progress we've made since coming back from deployment," said Espinoza, referring to the units return from Afghanistan in the middle of 2011.

Since the unit's return from Afghanistan, its service members participated in various training events such as crew-certification gunneries, in the battalion-level Best Gun Competition and shooting artillery at targets given by future artillerymen undergoing advanced individual training, here.

Most recently, the battalion used its family field exercise, 1-17th Day, to engage its Soldiers' family members while simultaneously preparing for the Copperhead March.

Espinoza said the demonstrated proficiency of the battalion during the march shows how knowledgeable all Soldiers in the unit are.

Although the unit stopped training because of inclement weather, its Soldiers were able to accomplish the mission given to them by their battalion commander, Lt. Col. Mark Krieger Jr., and return to their families a couple days earlier than anticipated.

"We had to shoot, move and communicate," said Bullard. "We got ahead of ourselves and shot a little better than we thought we would."