[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                               September 26, 2008

COL Freedom offers realistic 
training to 81st HBCT

By Maj. James Scott Taylor, 81st Public Affairs Office

     Soldiers from the 81st Heavy Brigade Combat Team (HBCT) conducted 24-hour operations training at Fort McCoy as part of their preparation for deployment to Iraq.

Photo: Cpl. Shane Carter of the 1st, 161st Combined Arms Battalion searches a civilian role player during checkpoint operations. (Photo by Sgt. Amanda Gauthier)
Cpl. Shane Carter of the 1st, 161st Combined Arms Battalion searches a civilian role player during checkpoint operations. (Photo by Sgt. Amanda Gauthier)

Located at sites constructed to simulate conditions in Iraq, Soldiers trained with newly issued equipment ranging from computers located in tactical operation centers to heavily armored wheeled vehicles equipped with weapon systems.

"Ninety percent is that the guys are motivated and they are getting to do what they came in the Guard to do," said 1st, 161st Combined Arms Battalion (CAB) Commander Lt. Col. Gregory Allen regarding the morale of his Soldiers and the status of training.

"We have some things we need to work out, but overall things are going well," continued Allen, an Active Guard and Reserve officer.

When asked about challenges the brigade faces while in this phase of training, 81st HBCT Deputy Commanding Officer Col. Christopher Fowler said that the 81st HBCT continues to respond effectively by creating and applying practicable solutions.

The Soldiers from the 1st, 161st CAB conducted realistic training at Contingency Operating Location (COL) Freedom employing individual Soldier skills they learned while training at the Yakima Training Center prior to their arrival. They also began learning to conduct combat operations as a platoon- and company-sized military team.

On COL Freedom, servicemembers from the 81st HBCT engaged in daily activities like manning guard towers and entry control points and participating in convoy and patrol security missions.

Preparation for these activities was required. Soldiers had the opportunity to apply numerous skills, such as conducting vehicle maintenance, testing their crew served weapons and practicing crew battle drills all the while responding to random simulated indirect fire and small-arms fire attacks.

Services such as a drop-off laundry facility and a small post exchange, which was stocked with snacks and personal hygiene products, were available to Soldiers during their stay at COL Freedom.

"We are running 24-hour operations, focusing on convoy security as well as base security," said 1st, 161st CAB Engineer Officer Capt. David Libby.

The Whatcom County Deputy and 18-year veteran Libby said, "We are getting attacked on the convoys by improvised explosive devices or small-arms fire or the combination of both. We also have to interact with the locals, played by (Civilian on the Battlefield) role players."

"It is very important that we learn to use more than just our guns to resolve our issues," said Libby.

COL Freedom also had a battalion aid station that was manned by 81st HBCT Army medics.

When asked about his confidence in his skills as a medic, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st, 161st CAB Spc. Adam M. Rieker said, "I was not as confident until after I went to the pre-deployment refresher course in San Antonio in July 2008. I am very confident now in my skills as a medic."

The U.S. Forest Service employee and Yakima, Wash., native Reiker continued, "I was a kid when I saw "Black Hawk Down" and thought it was pretty sweet how a medic can save someone’s life. I decided that I wanted to be an Army medic when I saw that movie."

Fowler, a Seattle police lieutenant and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran said, "Training is going well and Soldiers are motivated. Leaders are doing what they are supposed to do by identifying areas to sustain, while at the same time identifying areas to improve."

(Taylor is the Public Affairs Officer for the 81st HBCT of the Washington Army National Guard.)


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