CAMP ETHAN ALLEN TRAINING SITE, Vt. - Overcoming snow, below freezing temperatures, and elements of a typical Vermont winter was a challenge in itself. However, that wasn't the main focus of Saturday's training.
The 186th Brigade Special Troops Battalion came together Feb. 9, 2014 at Camp Ethan Allen Training Site (CEATS), to zero and qualify on the 50-caliber machine gun. This was another stepping-stone on the road to the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC), at Fort Polk, La for a three-week training event.
The opportunity to work as a team, was an important element during the drill weekend.
“We don't train with our parent company, HHC, all the time, so it's good that we can train collaboratively,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Weiland Ross, a Military Police Officer with the 186 BSTB. “So it's good to get all the different elements of the company together on the same sheet of music.”
Furthermore, learning to work on gunner teams is important for future training and combat. Ross elaborated on the importance of the weapons training and how it will better prepare them for JRTC.
“It'll definitely make it easier because the crews we use for the mounted gunnery are crews that are set once they get qualified,” said Ross. “They stay as a crew and we don't swap people around. If you qualify as a crew, that's how you stay the rest of the training. It gets them to develop and work collaboratively together as a team and develop some cohesion amongst each other.”
Consequently, the frigid temperatures added an element of difficulty to complete training, especially for those who were qualifying for the first time. Besides staying warm by a fire, or sipping on a cup of hot soup, the unit took the opportunity to conduct cold weather training.
“We were doing some training on building snow shelters,” said Ross. “Also, some demonstrations on different types of stoves and things like that for both cooking and staying warm in a cold weather environment. A lot of guys are new out of training and they've never used that before.”
The low temperatures also posed a level of difficulty during qualifications. This required the gunners to layer up on clothing, which was a blessing, but also a barrier.
“We have gloves on and it's hard to feel,” said Spc. Brandon Woods, a military police officer with the Brigade Special Troops Battalion.
Woods said he is from Vermont, so he is used to the colder temperatures, which might be more of a challenge for someone from the south.
Additionally, there is an increased amount of pressure placed on units to complete required training before going to JRTC. The minimal amount of days left for training must be used efficiently, even if that means operating in unfavorable conditions.
“It's a lot of training requirements all at once, you have your individual tasks as well as your gunnery,” said Ross. “We have a lot of training events that we have to cram into one year. Our training schedule is pretty packed so we have to take advantage of it while we can.”
On the other hand, working together while facing the elements, can add to the accomplishments of the team.
“Once the weather cooperates when its warmer they'll already have a cohesive bond and they should train and come together a lot better,” said Ross.
The challenges of cold weather, learning to work as a team, and overcoming the pressures of training requirements are taken in stride, as they are only part of what increases the level of preparedness and realism.
“The most realistic training you're going to get is if you ever have to go get into combat and shoot a weapon,” said Ross. “So that's what you're training to do, you're training to go and fight as a team. So it's definitely realistic, and if we ever deploy or go somewhere for a cold weather conflict, the soldiers will be trained and ready because they've already been exposed to it.”
By U.S. Army Sgt. Ashley Hayes
Provided through DVIDS
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