June 17, 2005
By Sgt. John Slosser
A convoy loaded with Kevlar-clad National Guard Soldiers travels dusty roads en route to deliver much-needed supplies. Enemy insurgents with machineguns and rocket propelled grenades lie in wait around the next bend, ready to attack the unsuspecting convoy. Then there is an explosion, and smoke is everywhere. A firefight ensues. Weapons fire rattles from every direction. The scene plays out and the noise stops, then troops load up to discuss how they would have handled the fight if it had been real.
Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 111th Air Defense Artillery Regiment took the opportunity to get ambushed while navigating the rolling roads of Fort Pickett, Va., on June 16.
“This is a basic infantry task, but with the current [operations tempo], all units need to be prepared with this sort of training,” said 1st Lt. Roderick Bell, battery commander. “Putting Soldiers in this sort of situation brings things to life for them and helps them prepare for the real world of deployments.”
The lieutenant was also quick to mention how this helped him as an individual.
“It reinforces how important communications, command and control are in a combat environment. It teaches [the Soldiers] to stay focused and to not get too excited.”
Later on the entire group gathered around a sand table map of the ambush site for an “after action review.” The troops discussed what happened and the pros and cons of how the scenario played out. When the officer in charge asked the unit what their focus should be in this situation, the Soldiers replied in unison with a sense of collective pride “SECTORS OF FIRE, SIR!”
Even the mock bad guys seemed to enjoy the education of their fake firefight.
“This prepares me for any future conflict by helping me look for areas that the enemy might want to exploit,” said Spc. Matthew Ejma, enemy role player for the main supply route scenario. “It’s fun being the bad guy for this training! It’s like running my own program.”
Other National Guard Soldiers involved with the training agreed with Ejma and his opinion of the quality of the exercise.
“This training is such a great ramp up for me. I’ve been out of the military for a few years and this is great training to jump back into you,” said 1st Lt. Ed Bochtler, enemy role player for the “Main Supply Route” scenario. “[The Soldiers] held their own on this route though.”
The lieutenant dressed as a terrorist also commented on his overall enjoyment of his annual training as a whole.
“This is a blast, literally," he said. "There aren’t too many civilian jobs where you can get this dirty, get covered with carbon, and have fun doing it.”