May 6, 2009

Virginia infantrymen learn light leader skills

By Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va.— Soldiers of the Virginia Army National Guard spent the day attacking insurgents and high-value targets at the Military Operations in Urban Terrain course at Fort Pickett April 22 as part of the final phase of the two-week Light Leaders Course.

  Light Leaders Course

Staff Sgt. Bennie Jost pauses to communicate to his sqaud what he sees around a corner before proceeding toward the objective. The Soldiers went through several scenarios in the MOUT city at Fort Pickett for the culmination of the Light Leaders Course. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

While at the MOUT site, the 24 noncommissioned officers and junior enlisted Warriors led their teams and squads alongside two officers through the mock village clearing rooms and buildings while providing external security. The Soldiers moved through the training site on foot and by Humvee.

During the Light Leaders Course the instructors of 1st Battalion, 183rd Regional Training Institute teach how to work together as a team throughout various leadership positions within a platoon of light infantryman. “Each person during the class has taken on a different leadership role,” said Staff Sgt. Bennie Jost, a student in the course.

The high-paced course, which focuses on the Army’s troop leading procedures, places the leaders in positions they would not normally be placed in due to their lack of experience and rank. The course forces the Soldiers to work at levels above their current responsibilities, from the team leader all the way to platoon leader.

Forcing the Soldiers to work outside their comfort zones as leaders helps the Soldiers prepare for what they may experience in real combat, according to Jost, a squad leader for Company C, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Brigade Combat Team, who has been deployed in combat situations before.

During deployments Soldiers are often forced into higher roles of leadership due to personnel restraints, said Jost. “By the time you left (the deployment), you were ready for that role, but initially you didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “There was a lot of having to learn as you go.”

“With that mentality, you put your Soldiers at risk,” said Jost.

“The Light Leaders Course has definitely set me up for success if I were to do it (deploy) again,” he said.

  Light Leaders Course

Soldiers assist their team member through a window and into a building during Light Leaders Course at Fort Pickett. The Soldiers focused on squad tactics while clearing rooms and buildings at the MOUT site. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The training the Soldiers learn here will benefit them in future overseas operations, according to Sgt. Matthew Stemmler, a student. “They can learn from it now, so if they get put in that position overseas, they’ll be a lot calmer and a lot smoother,” said Stemmler.

The goal of the course is to place the Soldiers in stressful environments and teach them to make controlled decisions while placed in chaotic situations, according to Sgt. 1st Class William R. Mayberry III, an instructor for 1st Bn., 183rd RTI

“We actually learned a lot,” said Jost.

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