FORT HOOD, Texas — Maneuvering through the thick vegetation of House Creek Assault Course (HCAC), infantrymen from Company C, “Carnivore,” 1st Battalion, 9th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division knocked out a bunker during the company’s squad live-fire exercise Oct. 11.

“We’re conducting our squad live-fire in preparation for our platoon situational training exercise (STX) and platoon live-fire,” said Capt. Alexander Saxby, commander, Co. C, 1st Bn., 9th Cav. “This is the building block of our platoon’s and company’s ability to maneuver. The fire team and squad are the smallest elements in the company and the squad level is where all the combat fire is focused.”

Within the armored brigade combat team (ABCT), infantry forces lie in wait to exit their Bradley fighting vehicle to close with and destroy the enemy, so proficiency at dismounted operations is essential to retain.

“A lot of the times in an ABCT the focus becomes gunnery, tanks and Bradleys,” said Saxby. “If you’re not careful, you can lose the individual Soldiers’ skills of live fire.”

Saxby said live fire is essential because it helps refocus the dismounts and remind them that they are infantrymen and they have a role to play in restrictive terrain.

“The infantry in a mechanized force is essential for rooting out enemy forces hidden within complex environments such as subterranean environments, urban environments and heavily wooded environments like here at HCAC,” Saxby said. “By conducting a squad live fire in complex terrain, it validates the squad leader and team leader’s ability to maneuver their forces and employ their combat power in areas that the rest of the mechanized brigade wouldn’t be able to impact.”

The backbone of the Army, the noncommissioned officers, are the lead trainers for the exercise. The squads conduct two iterations before lock and loading live rounds. During each iteration, the senior NCOs teach and mentor junior NCOs and Soldiers on proper tactics, techniques and procedures as they maneuver the lane.

“We’re testing the confidence and the competence of the junior noncommissioned officers as well as putting them in stressful situations to make them think in combat-type conditions to increase the lethality of the company,” said Sgt. 1st Class Dustin Sharp, platoon sergeant.

Sharp has 12 new soldiers in his platoon and stressed the value live-fire has to their development.

“It’s important for them to do this with live rounds because they haven’t done this since basic training,” Sharp said. “With the experience that we have with the senior NCOs in the company, it’s important for us to pass that knowledge down to them so this whole experience for them is valuable for their progression.”

Pvt. Perlandis Fane was one of the junior Soldiers who gained valuable experience during live fire. He’s been in the Army for eight months and is thankful he learned more about his job during the training. He said putting theory into practice is the main benefit of the training and the skills he learned benefits him for the platoon’s table XII exercise this month.