'Dependable trainers' prepare Reserve Soldiers for Iraq duty
Army News Service
Release Date: 3/8/2004
By Maj. Wayne Marotto
FORT RILEY, Kan. (Army News Service, March 8, 2004) - A blinding snowstorm and bitterly cold temperatures did not stop a task force of dependable trainers from performing their mission of mobilizing and validating Army Reserve Soldiers for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The task force of Soldiers, created from three battalions of the 383rd Regiment of the 3rd Brigade, 75th Division (Training Support) at Fort Riley, put "mission first" in preparing Army Reserve combat service support Soldiers for one-year tours of duty in Iraq. The training and validation took place at the Fort Riley Power Projection Platform, January through March.
The trainers used lessons learned from Iraq and guidance from Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker - that every Soldier is first and foremost a rifleman and warrior - to ensure the Soldiers could fight, survive and continue their mission in a combat environment.
"We train these Soldiers hard, and we have the best instructors I have ever seen," said Maj. Marie Ryberg, the task force exercise director. "We give them an austere environment, and the most realistic training environment because we are using lessons learned from Iraq."
Incorporating those lessons into training plans is a new method for the 3rd Brigade, which gets weekly updates from the Center for Army Lessons Learned and from units the 75th Division (Training Support) has deployed to Iraq.
The units e-mail the brigade, offering feedback on whether the training they received prior to deploying was successful or not in Iraq, said Maj. Rick Aper. That 'real time' training helped mobilizing units practice events they might encounter in Iraq.
The mobilization training was divided into three stages the task force called 'gates.'
Gate 1 consisted of three days of morning classroom instruction in selected individual and leader tasks. In the afternoon, Soldiers went through practical exercises based on the classroom instruction.
The instructors at Gate 1 were military policemen who presented "a problem in tactical techniques," said Aper, who was in charge of instructions at Gate 1.
In the cordon and search block of instruction, for example, Aper explained the difference in tactics between MP and Infantry units. "An MP unit will knock on a door [during the cordon and search], whereas an Infantry unit will kick the door down," Aper said.
At Gate 2, Soldiers trained for three days to validate on tasks in base defenses, urban operations, and convoy operations.
There was a special emphasis on convoy operations. Lessons learned from Iraq confirmed that combat service support units presented a soft target to Iraqi terrorists. The task force trained Soldiers to be aggressive when fired upon.
Convoy operations training, headed by instructors Capt. Stephen Cupp and Sgt. 1st Class Todd Monson, took Soldiers on a convoy over calf-deep snow-covered tank trails that took up to four hours to complete. The convoy route was littered with Improvised Explosive Devices, known as IEDs, commonly found in Iraq, with the convoy commander validated on his reaction.
Soldiers also encountered sniper fire and ambushes along the convoy route. Cupp and Monson observed Soldier's reactions, which were discussed in after-action reviews that followed each scenario.
The training at Gate 3 consisted of everything Soldiers had done over the previous seven days, which included a live-fire exercise. They practiced shooting at targets and fire suppression while traveling in a convoy. This training provided leaders an opportunity to lead in a realistic situation, and build Soldiers' confidence in shooting their weapons.
The long days and cold temperatures were stressful on the mobilizing Soldiers, instructors said. But they also realized that the more they sweated in training, the less likely they were to bleed on the battlefield, instructors added.
(Editor's note: Maj. Wayne Marotto is with the 75th Division's public affairs office.)
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