September 8, 2007

29th Inf. Div. troops spend a day at the range

A Soldier with Special Troops Battalion, 29th Inf. Div. takes careful aim as he zeroes his weapon during the 29th ID weapons qualification at Fort A.P. Hill August 4. (Photo by Spc. John Wood, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

By Spc. John Wood
29th Infantry Division Public Affairs

FORT A.P. HILL, Va. – The air was moist with the humidity of summer and the heat oppressive but it was not enough to halt the 29th Infantry Division’s training at Fort A.P. Hill on Aug. 4.

Many different parts of the 29th ID came together to qualify with M16 rifles and 9mm pistols and to receive warrior training on Nuclear Biological and Chemical reactions, heat casualties, family support groups, and risk management.

With every mission there is an advance party that arrives long before the main body of the unit. If not for the advance party, the rest of the division might not have  gotten to the range at all.

The advance party was plagued by a huge problem right from the start. The M16 qualification range the 29th was scheduled to use had to be shut down because a recent storm destroyed the system that controls the pop-up targets.

The advance party worked out a new plan with Fort A.P. Hill range control to follow another unit on a different range after their training. Capt. Mitchell Bierl, the officer-in-charge of the qualification range and one of the driving forces who helped overcome the range issue, said he would “make it work one way or another.”

Sgt. 1st Class Laronda Williams, another advance party member, helped set up a command point so that when the rest of the 29th arrived the commander and key personnel would have a place to coordinate their efforts so the drill could run as smooth as possible. Staff Sgt. Jonathan Brown, non-commissioned officer in charge of the emergency operation center, helped in “setting up the EOC before units got on the road because no one is at home and that means if they need something they have no one to call.”

Once the rest of the 29th arrived everyone went to their respective barracks and prepared for the next day. With the coming of the dawn the 29th was up and about getting their Meals Ready-to-Eat and drawing weapons. By 7:30 a.m, the blue and gray was out to the ranges to zero their weapons and begin warrior training classes.

A Special Troops Battalion, 29th Infantry Division Soldier checks the results of his skill at zeroing his weapon at the M16 rifle zero range on Fort A.P. Hill during weapons qualification August 4. (Photo by Spc. John Wood, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

After a few hours of zeroing and going from class site to class site groups of Soldiers began to move towards the qualification site.
With only a few hours of daylight left, the 29th ID Soldiers methodically marched through the qualification lanes and by the end of the long, hot day everyone could see the exhaustion in the eyes of every soldier.

The after action review highlighted the challenges that plagued the 29th Infantry Division training in August. There were some heat casualties, but none severe and all were treated and recovered in the field. There were a good number of Soldiers who met the qualification standards however the AAR indicated that all need to work on fundamentals.

Despite the challenges, or perhaps because of them, the August drill was a good wake up call for everyone that you need to stay fit, hydrated and practice, practice, practice.

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