The first field training exercise with their initial unit of assignment can make a big impression on a new paratrooper. It can go a long way to making a troop feel like an important part of a team and build confidence in the training they’ve received to that point in their career. It can forge bonds of brotherhood and trust as well as a sense of belonging.
The leaders of the 407th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, designed a busy week of training to enhance the capabilities of both seasoned and newly assigned paratroopers of the Global Response Force.
For many, the FTX provided new scenarios, advanced tactics or unfamiliar equipment with which to sharpen their expertise. With a large number of events and tasks being conducted, the Griffins spent a majority of the week on the go.
“Soldiers want to be busy in the field and they want to train,” said Lt. Col. Shawn Schuldt, the Golden Griffin’s commander. “The number one way you increase morale is through hard, realistic training.”
Shuldt explained why this field exercise was different from past ones.
“We gave our sergeants the time and resources to train their own squads and sections,” he said. “It has been phenomenal and far exceeding of my expectations.”
A support battalion, transportation capabilities are an important part of the unit’s mission and the GRF’s ability to get what is needed to where it is needed rests on their shoulders. Preventing the enemy from disrupting critical supply routes and holding up resources can be a daunting task. Logistics is just one of many factors that can mean the difference between mission success and failure.
With this in mind, the paratroopers of the 407th BSB covered a variety of training on the road. A convoy live-fire exercise trained truck crews to expertly work their security and communication skills.
The Griffins rehearsed the actions taken when an improvised explosive device or contact with the enemy threatens a convoy. They also trained to work stealthily under cover of night by moving under blackout conditions with night vision devices so that no visible light exposes the convoy. Driving and providing security become even more challenging tasks under these considerations.
As a way to enhance the training and further develop the tactics the Griffins employ for convoy operations, the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, or JIEDDO, helped set up obstacles on the convoy lanes and test paratroopers’ ability to defeat IEDs.
Should disaster strike while they are on a convoy, the Griffins stand trained and ready to get a disabled or stuck vehicle out of a danger zone. Battlefield vehicle recovery lanes with simulated indirect fire and enemy combatants provided realism to training the teams responsible for such operations.
“We need to get in there as quick as possible, get the vehicle out, and get out of the danger zone,” said Sgt. William Moore, a wheeled vehicle mechanic assigned to Company B, 407th BSB. “Our eyes are focused on recovering that vehicle and we have to trust our comrades to watch our back.
“By the time I got out of the truck, I saw 360- degree security so they did well,” he said.
Moore’s junior enlisted wrecker driver and vehicle recovery assistant said he found the training essential as well.
“I thought it was good. It was a new scenario to me and I took a lot out of it,” said Spc. Eric Ancira, Moore’s driver and co-recovery specialist.
The battalion also tested basic Soldier skill tasks using the round robin method of organizing training. This method resulted in the certification of all of the battalion’s paratroopers in standard war fighting tasks such as combat casualty care or weapons maintenance.
One of the most important skill sets of a paratrooper is mastery of their weapons. For this, the Griffins ran a series of ranges to familiarize them with engaging targets from a variety of firing positions, including shooting around walls, from rooftops, and while standing or on the move.
The FTX provided an opportunity for the paratroopers to use new equipment as well. For an organization prepared to conduct an airborne operation into an austere environment anywhere in the world, basic necessities can prove challenging to provide. One such resource is clean, potable water. Foreseeing the need to quickly and effectively provide water to troops, the battalion’s water purification specialists became experts with lightweight, portable equipment that uses ultraviolet filters to disinfect untreated water sources.
“Traditional Army equipment requires a lot of chemicals and hoses,” said Spc. William Mira, a water treatment specialist. “These have one hose going in and one going out.
“The downfall is output because it doesn’t have storage capacity,” he said.
Another junior water purification specialist paratrooper said he was glad for this type of training event.
“It’s a refresher because we don’t get to do it every day,” said Pfc. Jaiwan Cooper. “I think it’s good training and gives you a chance to touch up on everything.”
The busy week culminated in an adrenaline-pumped afternoon of sling load training for many Company A paratroopers.
Hooking up sling loads to a CH-47 Chinook can be an exciting aspect of a young paratrooper’s job of getting the critical supplies to the battlefield.
“A lot of these paratroopers have never done this before so they were real excited,” said Sgt. Dante Hawthorne, a graduate of the sling load inspector course. “You need to give them something they’ve never done before.”
At least one Griffin paratrooper admitted to being pushed beyond his comfort zone.
“I was a little nervous because this was the first time I’ve ever done this,” said Pfc. Brenden Devonta, a motor transport operator. “At first I was afraid I’d mess up but my noncommissioned officer in charge motivated me and my training kicked in.”
Although Soldiers learn basic military occupational specialty skills in advanced individual training, field training presents an opportunity to greatly expand on those lessons and see the knowledge applied to real world scenarios.
“We did sling load hook-ups in advanced individual training,” said Pfc. Aaron Jaime, an ammunition specialist. “There, the loads were already assembled but here, we did the prepping and rigging so it was much more hands on.
“I would rather be doing something all day rather than sitting in a hot tent,” Jaime said, echoing his battalion commander’s words. “Sling load training is a good way to end it.”