Thursday, October 2, 2008

Infantrymen take MOUT one step at a time

-- Sgt. B. Wesley Lewis

JOINT MULTINATIONAL READINESS CENTER, Germany – American infantrymen began the step-by-step process of their military operations in urban terrain training by setting up “glass houses” Sept. 20 at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center.

The “glass houses” were the first steps for Company A, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment to train for its live-fire training at the shoot house Sept. 21 at the JMRC.

“Up until about 10-15 years ago, we (American army) concentrated our battle drills on wood line and open areas. We train to prepare our men to win in what will be the center of gravity in future conflicts.” said Company A 1st Sgt. Joel P. Goodine.

The Soldiers used planks of wood and engineer tape to make an outline of the rooms in the shoot house at their motor pool Sept. 20. Using these “glass houses” were the initial approach, allowing Soldiers and leaders to observe those maneuvering through the simulated rooms.

Each platoon took turns leading their Soldiers through the simulated rooms with their assigned weapons and no gear. After the platoon leader and platoon sergeant felt that their Soldiers were confident with navigating the rooms as a unit, Soldiers then put on their helmets and body armor.

The Army refers to its step-by-step approach to training as the “crawl, walk, run” process.

“The ‘crawl, walk, run’ process is a visualization process for each Soldier to ensure they know the task from start to finish and let the leaders know they are ready to complete the task at hand,” said 3rd Platoon Leader 1st Lt. Michael B. Baliles.

The “crawl” phase is the first step in training Soldiers. From this phase, those training infantrymen can gradually increase the size of the unit moving through the simulation, the speed and the amount of stress added through different variables.

Using the “crawl, walk, run” method also allows instructors to gauge how well a unit works together and watch for anything that might endanger themselves or other Soldiers.

Third Platoon Sergeant Staff Sgt. Allen S. Clark, said, “Soldiers build muscle memory by repeating the steps. This way we don’t loose Soldiers in training so we can have them in combat.”

Soldiers’ stress levels went up by adding realism to the scenario at each step. Wearing all of their battle gear, entering rooms that have noncombatants, and taking care of casualties prepares Soldiers for the unpredictable variables that may arise on the battlefield.

The battalion is at the JMRC as part of the ABCA Armies Program along with Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to improve training, interoperability, and confidence to prepare Soldiers for future missions.

The repetitiveness of training helps Soldiers deal with combat stress.

“When the stress level is high, we revert back to our basics. The ‘crawl, walk, run’ process makes our decision making process easier.” said Spc. John V. Russell Jr, an infantryman from 3rd Platoon.

Sept. 21 started the next step of training for the company. The day began with Soldiers using blank ammunition to simulate the noise and multiple integrated laser engagement systems to simulate casualties through sirens going off and then ended with Soldiers using live ammunition.

“Anytime you conduct training, you want to train as real as possible. You want your Soldiers to gain confidence and familiarity with using live rounds as well as working with the guy next them,” Ellison said.

The rigorous and repetitive training the unit went through built confidence between leaders and their Soldiers as well as infantrymen and their team mates.

“I expect them (my Soldiers) to have confidence in themselves and be able to trust the man next to them,” said Clark.

After a day and a half of training, Company A prepared themselves for the final stage of their MOUT training, the live-fire.

“It makes it more realistic and makes everyone more cognizant of what is going on around them,” said Staff Sgt. James T. Harris, a squad leader from 3rd platoon.

The unit started at a site away from the shoot house and rolled up in their stryker vehicles, tactically parking for Soldiers to dismount and enter the buildings.

Soldiers dismounted the stryker vehicles, ran to their positions outside the shoot house, and waited for the orders to enter. Once the command was given to enter, Soldiers filed through the doorways just as they trained.

From the outside, the noises heard consisted of sharp instructions from the leaders, doors being bashed open, shots being fired and “room clear” all the way up to the final command of “cease fire.”

The training session ended safely and with the clear result that Soldiers are better trained for urban combat.

“I think prior to the live-fire we trained to perform but the live-fire allowed them to gain confidence due to training with live bullets in a complex scenario,” Goodine said.

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