Friday, August 19, 2005

Chuck Wagons, War Wagons, and Force Protection Training

Yours truly, Wraith Six. Blog Warrior.

When I was company XO of Delta, 311th MI BN (a battalion which no longer exists under Army transformation) in the 101st ABN DIV (ASSLT), I was lucky enough to have a great commander who took the time to mentor me. He was a vet of the 90's 10th Mountain Division World Tour. He used to say if you look like a "chuck wagon", you'll get treated like one by the enemy. The key was to look like a "war wagon" so nobody would screw with you. So, even though we were an MI Company, we spent a lot of time preparing to be war wagons. We did live fires and battle drills. We shot as much a we could. I became an ammo pimp and left no stone unturned looking for a few more rounds to shoot. We kicked a lot of ass for MI weenies.

When I first joined the reserves, one of my great frustrations was that we didn't spend any time training for force protection. We never had any ammo. Even after we got mobilized and sent to Fort Hood, that attitude still prevailed. The active-duty Brigade we were assigned to did not take force protection seriously, and the active component feuded with the reserve component over who would pay for our ammo. Needless to say, we only shot once the entire year we were stuck at Fort Hood. I even got chewed out by the BDE CSM for allowing my NCOs to do convoy security training during SGT's time. "We're MI," she said. "We don't do that." And I was supposed to by the pogue reservist.

Of course, we have to strike a fine balance between training our intelligence specialties and warrior tasks. I try to do one weekend of combat focused training at least once a quarter. The ambush of Jessica Lynch and the 507th Maintenance Company and the nature of the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan has changed the attitudes of support units so I no longer have to fight for the training time. There is more emphasis on force protection. Of course that emphasis has not translated into proper support.

I'm supposed to shoot twice a year, and spend time in the field doing convoy security training and other tasks. But, ammo is always and issue. And we never get blanks. So, I have to get creative.

In July's assembly...I did convoy security lane training with paintball guns and gas powered arty and machine gun simulators. Were we war wagons? Nope. No armor. No gun turrets. And no blanks. It's hard to have great training without great equipment, but it was a start.

Here are some pics.

Arty simulator.

MG simulator.

The ever-present IED.

Meet the insurgents.

More insurgents. Getting paid to play paintball is fun.

Wait for it.


Why armor is important.

More reasons why armor is important.

Last weekend, we had a three day BN FTX for AUG assembly. We were lucky and got plenty of ammo. We also did more lanes training. I was assigned the first aid lanes. I did it war wagon style, and incorporated an ambush in the lanes training.

It was a good FTX. My company did very well, and I shot gansta-style on the M-9. But, a few days of training doesn't make us ready for combat.

Here are some pics of the training:

Medic! We try to make our training realistic with mulage kits. We used about a gallon of fake blood. The guys at the training support center hide when they see my supply SGT coming. He cleans them out.

It hurts.

Evacuating the casualties. Still a little too "chuck wagon."

Lets shoot some shit. See the guy in DCUs? That's SGT R just back from Iraq and over two years of mobilization. He was excused from this drill, but came anyway. When he decribed how a soldier died in his arms in Iraq, it helped my guys and gals stay focussed in a way that my pep talks and lectures never could.

Ammo, for once. My supply SGT is a former Marine and started talking shit to his commander. He even wanted to make it interesting with a little bet. Dumb ass. I was born and raised in a state with three times and many guns as people. You do the math.

Steely eyed killaz! SGT R on the front row. Yes he is wearing IBA. No, I don't want to know how he "aquired" it.

SPC C, steely eyed killer with the M-203. She shot a perfect score despite what she characterized as my bad coaching. What the hell does she know? Julie says she looks about twelve years old.

Victory cigar provided by my XO CPT D.

Conclusion: The reserves still has a long way to go before we train properly. We have to play catch up on our warrior skills once we are mobilized. Too many units are sent to Iraq as chuck wagons.

We need more ammo, and we need to do live fires. Live fires and force on force training are probably too hard to resource with part-time units. There ought to be several regional combat training centers for reservists similar to the Joint Readiness Training Center where you cycle your units through annually.

We're getting better, but we're not there yet.


At August 23, 2005, Anonymous Ret Army Guy said...

Hey, Kris, apropos of absolutely nothing, is your dad's first name "Keith?' Just wondering.

At August 29, 2005, Blogger hank_F_M said...

An old problem.

When I was a junior office on a non deploying USAR Brigade HQ I appointed my self as detachment training officer since no else was doing it. Called a training meeting and published a trining schedule that had more entries than “section training.” No one objected, but common skills training was just not very high on any ones priorities. We accomplished enough so the soldiers could pass the their skills tests, but not much more. When I read the AAR for the 507th Maint I could close my eyes and see how “things that must be done now” killed the training program and some good soldiers.

At December 10, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice blog. I'm always talking about how the bad guys will let you pass by if you "look" tough, and then they'll hit the weenie convoy coming down the road 20 minutes later. I realize you stole the Chuck Wagon/War wagon analogy, but now I'm probably going to steal it from you. Keep up the good fight!

By the way... I saw a 205th combat patch in one of your pictures. Warms the heart of a current 205th NCO.


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