July 1, 2009

Water operations keep Cav Soldiers cool at annual training

By Sgt. John Slosser
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Annual training is often associated with field exercises and hot summer temperatures. But Virginia National Guard Soldiers from Troop C, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment kept cool at Fort Pickett this summer with training that put them out on the water.

  Cavalry Troops water operations
Soldiers from C Troop, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment demonstrate their air, water and land insertion capabilities to employers June 20 during their annual training at Fort Pickett. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs) 

During their first few days out on the water, the Soldiers learned how to inflate, carry, maintain and store the F470 Zodiac boat. Six and eight person teams took to the Fort Pickett Reservoir and practiced plying the waters with paddles and learned tactical boating techniques. Several also received hands-on instruction on the proper use of outboard motors.

As a dismounted reconnaissance troop, Troop C trains on Zodiac boats for tactical reasons, but they also may use their boating skills for domestic missions such as search and rescue events following major floods or hurricanes.

“We are the unit that gets inserted ahead of the motorized regiment. In some cases we could be as far forward as 200 kilometers,” said Capt. Steele McGonegal, the troop commander. “We have to be able to get there. We have to be air mobile, we have to do air missions, but we also have to be mobile by water.”

For many Soldiers, the most fun part came when they were forced to flip the boats while out on open water, in order to practice broaching (or righting) the boat in the event of an accidental flip.

 Many of the swimming Soldiers seemed very enthusiastic about their AT schedule.

“I love to have fun and we even get paid to do it here,” said Staff Sgt. Jonathan Messick, A team leader in 1st platoon. “When my recruiter recruited me, he said, ‘Don’t you want to do transportation or something different?’ I said ‘No. See all those guys jumping out of planes and riding Zodiacs. That’s me.’ I was born to do this!”

  Cavalry Troops water operations

Soldiers from Troop C, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment practice righting their Zodiac boat in the event of an accidental flip during water operations training at the Fort Pickett Reservoir June 18. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The Soldiers of C Troop got a chance to demonstrate their new skills June 20 during an event known as a “Boss Lift,” where Soldiers’ employers are invited out to observe units in training.

“They’re going to get to see what the dismounted reconnaissance troop can do from the air, on the water, and on land,” said McGonegal before the event began. “It’s a great opportunity really because we ask (employers) to give up their workers sometimes for one weekend a month, or sometimes as long as 18 months.”

“What’s really important,” he continued, “is that they understand that these citizen Soldiers are doing real work for real world missions to protect and defend the American way of life by training their people to be able to do great things.”

The demonstration involved heavily-camouflaged Soldiers securing a landing zone for a helicopter insertion of more DRT troops. They tactically linked up with Zodiac boat crews and moved out to the far shore where they joined a waiting ground force and disappeared into the wood line.

“It is a lot of fun,” said Pfc. Dino Kiriakou from 2nd Platoon. “We get to wear our ghillie suits, which hide us from the enemy. Mine is a crawl suit, so mine has padding, usually snipers wear these. You also see men wearing stalker suits so they are able to walk through the woods and look like bushes and sneak up on the enemy.”

“This is great for the employers to see what we are doing,” Kiriakou said. “We’re really working hard and they need to see that so they can help us out however they can.”

The DRT’s demonstration served as only one part of a full day of organized events for the employers. Other events included helicopter rides and weapons demonstrations on various ranges.

Spc. Eric Palmer from the Headquarters Troop invited his own boss, Bill Witt, out to view the training.

“I have no military background...We are just learning what the military is all about,” said Witt, who runs WB&E Construction out of the Hampton Roads Area. “We have good things going on here. I’m impressed. It makes me feel safe and it makes me proud to be an American.”

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