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Units practice convoy operations security

     Soldiers from C Company of the 367th Engineer Battalion of Duluth, Minn., who will be deploying to support Operation Enduring Freedom, spent three days learning the basics of convoy operations security during training at Fort McCoy.

      Capt. Rod Zehrung, a platoon leader for the Army Reserve combat engineer unit, said convoy operations training is a key skill that all Army units and personnel should have.

Spc. Sean Kelly (in Humvee) of the 367th gets advice from Sgt. 1st Class Karl Hall of the 4th Brigade about convoy tactics. (Photo by Rob Schuette)
Spc. Sean Kelly (in Humvee) of the 367th gets advice from Sgt. 1st Class Karl Hall of the 4th Brigade about convoy tactics. (Photo by Rob Schuette)

      The first day of training begins with classroom instruction, where a sand table is used to depict how Soldiers and vehicles should be positioned during a convoy contact scenario, he said.

      "It's a lot different when they have their gear on and the (vehicles) they are in are moving," Zehrung said. "They also have to learn how to hand off weapons to replace those that have jammed or to get a loaded weapon where it is needed."

      Capt. Dave Webster, the Convoy Operations officer in charge from the 4th Brigade at Fort Knox, Ky., said the first day of training ends with the unit personnel undergoing vehicle battle drills. Soldiers practice entering and exiting vehicles and responding to various threats that come from outside the vehicle.

      During the second day of the training, the personnel rehearse battle drill responses to enemy tactics. The scenarios, played out at Young Assault Strip, include how to respond to opposing forces.

      "This gives them a foundation to work from," Webster said. "They learn how to react with minimal commands from their commanders."

Soldiers from the 367th drill in convoy tactics with their vehicles after completing classroom instruction. (Photo by Rob Schuette)
Soldiers from the 367th drill in convoy tactics with their vehicles after completing classroom instruction. (Photo by Rob Schuette)

      Webster said the third day of training involves conducting a convoy operations scenario from Young Assault Strip. Soldiers drive a route and must react to simulations, including ambushes, improvised explosive devices and opposing forces.

      "The drills are a place to start and build from," Webster said. "They have to practice how to give out information on radios (in a crisp, concise manner) so everyone can understand it easily, and their higher headquarters knows what's happening."

      Webster said the use of Fort McCoy classrooms and Young Assault Strip helped support the training and allowed them to set up realistic scenarios.

      Sgt. 1st Class Greg Brewer of the 4th Brigade said the unit supported mobilization training at Fort Campbell, Ky., before coming to Fort McCoy to help support this training. The active-duty Army unit worked well together with the 2nd (Brigade), 85th Division (Training Support), which is comprised largely of reserve-component Soldiers, he said. The 2nd, 85th (TS) has overall responsibility for the Fort McCoy mobilization training mission. Brewer said the 2nd, 85th (TS) allowed the 4th to piggyback on the operation the 2nd, 85th (TS) established, use much of their equipment and deserved a lot of credit for making the training successful.

      The drills and convoy operations tactics are detailed in a convoy leader handbook that is distributed to the units. Zehrung said he planned to ensure each squad leader would have one of the handbooks for reference purposes.

      Practicing the tactics is important, Zehrung said. For example, it might seem easy to get in and out of a vehicle, but wearing 15 to 20 pounds of gear and having a weapon to handle can cut down flexibility and make it more difficult, he said.

      Sgt. Dan Toleno of C Company of the 367th said he had previously done convoy training with the 82nd Airborne Division, but the Army had incorporated a lot of lessons learned from current operations, which made this training very valuable.

      Pfc. Matthew Sullivan, who was cross-leveled from the 397th Engineer Battalion to the 367th, said the training helped the personnel understand that convoy operations are a lot more complicated than they might have first believed.

      "A good part of the training is to develop and work on the tactics at squad and team levels," Sullivan said. "If something happens when we're deployed, we're not blind to the problem."

      Spc. Sean Kelly of the 367th said this was his first experience with convoy operations training.

      The use of Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System (MILES) equipment helped participants know what was happening.

      "This makes you aware of how quickly things can happen," Kelly said. "It gives you a sense of urgency when you near the noises (of the MILES going off when there's weapons fire.)"

      Sgt. 1st Class John Twardowski, who was cross-leveled from the 397th to the 367th, said the unit began preparing for convoy operations back at the home station. The training at Fort McCoy gave them a chance to actually participate in the training and see what the unit would do.

      "Anyone who's watching the news knows about the obstacles in convoy operations," Twardowski said. "To get anywhere or to do anything you have to convoy. This training will help us to be prepared at all times."


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