Post-Report on Army Field Training Exercise (FTX) - 2 Nov, 2006
I woke up at 0630, packed, then headed over to the ROTC building. We were taken over by bus to the parking lot across the street from the LaVell Edwards stadium. There were a couple of reporters/photographers there.
The photo is from a Daily Universe front-page picture for an article on the Army FTX we were doing. That's me in the foreground and the Blackhawk we rode in on in the background. We practiced loading the helicopter, and unloading it (we ended up INTENTIONALLY doing a dogpile with me on the bottom when we unloaded). We then fanned out to pull security on the landing site, ensuring no civilians inadvertently wandered in (many tried). The Blackhawk landed, picked us up, and we were off. After unloading at the helipad at Camp Williams, we immediately went over to the shooting range and packed magazines full of bullets. Following this we shot the M-4 Carbine (shortened version of the M-16), the M-9 Pistol (standard issue to all officers in the Army), and the M-14 (the rifle that was replaced by the M-16; it's actually more powerful [which you can feel in your shoulder]).
We then double-timed it with our rucks over to the squad assault exercise. We practiced first, attacking two imaginary targets as a squad. Then we did an actual assault with paintball weapons on a solitary OPFOR (which means opposing forces, i.e. the enemy) in a bunker on a hill (which the rest of my squad believed to be two or three OPFOR). The rest of the squad approached straight up the hill, while me and my battle-buddy came around back to flank him. He exited the bunker (unbeknownst to the rest of the squad) killed my battle-buddy, after which I shot and killed him, assaulted through, and searched him.
Next we double-timed it up to the LANDNAV (Land Navigation) site to drop off our rucks, quickly consume an MRE, and then continue down to a rally point near our next destination; the MOUT (Military Operations on Urban Terrain) site.
We then proceeded to the MOUT site, which was vaguely similar to a small village, except that most the buildings were simply façades. We practiced entering and clearing rooms by fire team first. Then we were briefed that we were to enter a building (a real one this time) as a squad, collect evidence of IED (Improvised Explosive Device) manufacture, capture EPWs (Enemy Prisoners of War), and free the handful of hostages inside. As we approached the building, a "local" dressed up in a turban-type thing, yelling at us in English with a thick accent, and waving a shovel and a gun around, approached us, we then disarmed him and tied him up, leaving him outside. We entered the building, leaving one member of my fire time outside the door as rear security. The fire teams split off in different directions and combat began immediately. My fire team followed another fire team into the basement. As we rounded a corner, the fire team's point man (guy in front) moved to the left, I moved the right, and the guy in back moved straight in, and we immediately took fire from an insurgent covered entirely by a hostage. I was hit, and the guy behind me was hit. We eliminated the insurgent, did an EPW search, removed the now-injured hostage and the member of my fire team, and exited the building.
Our next task was day-LANDNAV (LAND NAVigation). We returned to the LANDNAV site, were given a map, and teamed up with one or two others. Basically it was like orienteering, over a rather long distance. We returned, and several hours later did night-LANDNAV in the dark.
Upon our return, we set up camp, were instructed to sleep with our weapons (paintball guns) in our sleeping bags, and we would be woken up at 6:30. It was very, very cold, possibly around 10 degrees. Next morning we were roused at 4:15, told to pack all of our stuff ASAP, and get in formation. We were then informed that we were to do an early-morning raid on a village (the MOUT site) and capture a high-value target there, by force if necessary. Our entire company (approx 80 cadets) were to participate. 2nd platoon (40 cadets) was to pull outer security (about a mile out from the village, possibly more). 1st platoon was to pull inner security (1/4 mile from the village), establish a QRF (Quick Reaction Force) to respond to any surprise threats. My squad (1st platoon, 3rd squad, or first third) had two tasks: Bravo fire team was to pull security on the bridge that was the entrance to the town, and Alpha (my fire team; approx 6 cadets) was to be the extraction force that entered the town, with an Arabic translator attached to the squad. As we approached the town in the pitch dark, we had to put on our paintball masks. The masks were extremely scratched such that it made it impossible to see anything at all, except for the occasional silhouette (causing me to put one hand on the guy in front of me for guidance). We entered the town. The high value target (HVT) was there, and had several followers beside him, with their weapons on the ground. We approached, and the HVT spoke with our squad leader through the translator for some time. We were trying to convince him to willingly come with us. Without warning, he walked away in mid-conversation, picked up a loudspeaker, and started saying (in Arabic) "KILL THE AMERICANS, KILL THE AMERICANS, KILL THE AMERICANS". As one might expect, we began taking fire, and quickly sought cover, although there was little cover to be found in the village, and we were forced to remain pretty much where we were. Shortly thereafter, we received news that there may be a squad trapped inside a building, possibly even captured. We went to investigate, and took more fire. Finding no one, and risking getting shot every moment we remained there, we left the vicinity of the building. Eventually we met with Bravo fire team and doubled-up security on the bridge. Somehow the HVT was captured, and after several instances of rogue insurgents sneaking up on us from various places, end exercise was called (ending combat and coming in to evaluate things).
We then ate a nice, hot breakfast, packed up, and left. We ended up marching a long distance with our rucks to the next site (airborne/air assault training site). On the way, we were ambushed and had to react and eliminate the enemy. We suffered several casualties, and had to carry them and their gear for a short distance. We were then packed up into buses and driven to the next site.
At the next site there were three activities: rappelling, paradrop training, and the LTC (Leadership Training Course). We began with the latter.
The LTC is a short obstacle course conducted by a squad under the leadership of the squad leader. The specific objective varies from course to course, but the idea behind it is to build teamwork and most of all to evaluate the squad leader on their leadership skills. We did two courses. The first was to get the entire squad over a tank trap without touching the ground, and to get a plastic barrel/drum over with us. The second was to get our squad and three boxes full of ammo from one side to the other without touching the ground, with a solid, metal bar perpendicular to our path in the middle of the course, and two heavy metal pipes. All in all it was pretty fun, and we succeeded at both.
Next we did paradrop training. To simulate an actual paradrop, we were given harnesses and climbed a very tall tower. Once up in the tower our harnesses were hooked up to a long zip-line. We then would jump out of the tower, freefall for about 5 feet, and then the zip-line would catch us and we'd ride the rest of the way down.
Lastly we went rappelling. There were several ways to rappel, although I only did two: the wall and the freefall. Most of the time I spent on the bottom, belleting other rappellers.
We ended by eating our MREs for lunch, cleaning the paintball guns, getting on the buses and driving home.