April 26, 2005
By Pfc. Occoless Trotter
FORT PICKETT, Va.-- Soldiers with the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 116th Infantry, 29th Infantry Division (Light) conducted simulated combat exercises during their monthly drill weekend on Apr. 1-3, 2005.
The training was in two parts: one for the headquarters, and one for the line units. The command element was in the Tactical Operations Center and operations were conducted in a MOUT (Military Operations on Urban Terrain) site constructed to look like a war-ravaged town. According to Maj. Lapthe Flora, the 1st Batallion's executive officer, the scenario involved the troops helping stabilize a new nation and protect it from insurgent attacks.
The reason for the exercise, said Flora, was to "coordinate and synchronize combat power and to utilize the Military Decision Making Process." The task of managing information flow fell on the Tactical Operations Center (TOC). The TOC was hooked into a computer system, which sent combat situations and tracked troop, enemy and vehicle movement at the MOUT site. The command element, in turn, would be responsible for processing the information, analyzing the situations and directing the Soldiers at the MOUT site in order to accomplish their mission and keep casualties to a minimum.
“If we fail, we fail our boys out on the field,” Flora stated.
In a separate building, a series of computers sent combat situations to the TOC.
“It is our intent to replicate as close as possible a real life combat situation,” said Skip Gill, a team leader with the Battle Command Training Center in Fort Leavenworth, KS. Gill, who has been working with various military training exercises for 30 years, also said that realism was important to “prepare for possible mobilization in support of our country's war on terrorism.”
At the MOUT site, soldiers practiced operating checkpoints, clearing and entering buildings and effectively suppressing enemy attacks with cover fire. Maj. John Epperly, commander of the 2nd Battalion, said the last several months of training had paid off with a good showing and further helped in stabilizing battle rosters.
“Its vitally important that we have squads that are extra proficient,” Epperly stated. “The squad is the basic building block of the platoon.”
On the final day of training, the officers and command noncommissioned officers of the two units conducted their After Action Review to critique the exercise's successes and needs for improvement. Many of the participants felt there was too much time in between this exercise and the last.
“We don’t do it enough,” said Flora, recalling that the last time the batallion conducted combat simulation exercises was about two years ago.