Back to basics for basic Print E-mail
Thursday, 21 November 2013
Soldiers from the 58th Transportation Battalion learn to camouflage a truck as the unit returns to expeditionary-focused training. Courtesy photo
By Dawn Arden
Assistant editor
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Soldiers in basic training are now saying “goodbye SEAhut, hello puptent,” during field training on Fort Leonard Wood.

With the draw down in forces from overseas contingency operations, there is no longer the urgent need to have large numbers of Soldiers trained quickly for immediate deployment, and the nature of how they fight is changing. Consequently, 3rd Chemical Brigade is switching gears and going from training in the Forward Operating Base environment to introducing privates to expeditionary-based training.

This back-to-the basics training initiative is stemming from guidance set forth by the Chief of Staff of the Army, saying that the Total Army should be able to rapidly deploy, fight, sustain itself and win in “austere environments and rugged terrain.”

“The bottom line is, the IMT (initial military training) environment in Basic and AIT has morphed over the last decade plus of combat and has changed to allow us to quickly train Soldiers to a standard that will enable them to arrive at an operational unit and quickly deploy into specific environments like Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Col. Jon Drushal, 3rd Chemical Brigade commander. “A lot of things were geared towards preparing Soldiers immediately for combat, in those environments. So now as Iraq is shutdown, and we will soon be leaving Afghanistan, it is time to adjust the training again.”

The FOBs that fall under the brigade’s care on Fort Leonard Wood will no longer be used, except for extreme weather options while others will be torn down. In place of these buildings, Soldiers will be sleeping in poncho tents or shelter halves during their Field Training Exercises.

“We do not use the FOBs anymore. We go out and live in the woods like we used to do. We’re going to be sleeping on the ground. They have poncho hooches, they could have shelter halves. How they live in the field, I allow the battalion commanders to make those decisions. My guidance is ‘you may not utilize standing facilities except as extreme weather options’, Drushal said. “It is an austere environment and Soldiers are working on building their field-craft again; ‘how do I live in the field?’ ‘how do I camouflage?’ noise and light discipline, all of those sorts of things. They are 100 percent tactical all the time except for the After-Action Review.”

They will also be switching to tactical feeding during FTXs where the Soldiers will no longer receive two hot meals a day with a MRE (meals ready to eat) at lunch. They will now be eating two MRE meals a day and getting one hot meal.

“Our opinion is this type of training starts here in IMT — it does not start when you get to the operational unit, it starts here,” Drushal said. “Our training begins with a common scenario that runs through all three FTXs, and by that I mean, everything from the beginning of basic training until the end is tied together through a common threat and we start with a base operations order and issue Fragmentary Orders (FRAGOs) that drive the training and understanding by the trainees.”

“The outcome is a more confident and more tactically proficient Soldier,” he added. “I did not want Soldiers to lose that tactical focus when they went to AIT, where they’re learning their technical skill, so we’ve carried that over to AIT as well.”

Drushal said this is a “cultural change” for 3rd Brigade and that there is an educational process that the battalion command teams, the company command teams and drill sergeants are currently going through due to the fact that some of the cadre have not been exposed to this type of training over the past 10 years.

Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Aldenberg, 3rd Chemical Brigade command sergeant major, agrees.

“A lot of the drill sergeants who came in in 2006, just seven years ago, all they know is the FOB so if you look at my population of drill sergeants and AIT platoon sergeants, 80 percent of them came in after 9-11. Very few have lived the expeditionary. It’s a lot of leader development, but it’s going well,” Aldenberg said.

Drushal added, “We’re here to train privates to a certain standard and then they move off to a very successful AIT or first unit of assignment.”

“Really basic training is where a Soldier sees for the first time what right looks like,” Drushal said. “Drill sergeants will be the squad leaders, they will show the privates what a squad leader looks like, how they act, how they lead — what right looks like. That first impression in the Army sticks with people for a long time, and I prefer that that be a very good impression.”

At the time this was written it was Company E, 2nd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment’s turn for FTX and even though they were cold, wet and tired, they were learning their field-craft.

“My goal was to transition from FOB based operations to expeditionary based operations in a deliberate manner. Following 10 plus years of combat operations from FOBs, we had to retrain our cadre on basic field-craft, small unit patrolling and patrol base activities. We started the transition in September, and each company has pushed the ball further down the field in our capstone exercise — FTX III,” said Lt. Col. James Lock, 2nd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment commander.

“It all comes down to field-craft — teaching our trainees how to operate out of a rucksack for a 96-hour period under adverse weather conditions and remain combat effective. The transition has been challenging for both our trainees and our cadre, but we are definitely moving in the right direction,” Lock added.

Also affected by the expeditionary training changes is 58th Transportation Battalion.

“One of the key tasks for a transporter in a field environment is concealing vehicles and equipment. As part of expeditionary-focused training, motor transport operators must learn both why and how to camouflage a vehicle,” said Lt. Col. Stephen Howell, 58th Transportation Battalion commander. “So, during their FTX, instructors will take the lead and students will participate in camouflaging a 5-ton vehicle. This gives students an opportunity to see proper camouflaging techniques.”

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 04 December 2013 )