News: 'Anyone can be Rambo when no one's shooting at them'
Story by Sgt. Kissta DiGregorio
FORT BRAGG, N.C. – Three UH-60 Blackhawks carrying battle-hardened paratroopers pass overhead as they bank to land in front of a seemingly abandoned town. Troopers run through the dust cloud created by the helicopters as they dismount and assault the village. They don full facemasks, goggles, and advanced combat helmets, concealing their appearance and protecting them from the rounds their enemies will be firing. The soldiers stack outside the doors of the buildings before kicking them in and clearing each room.
The 2nd Brigade Combat Team “Red Falcons” teamed up with the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade to conduct realistic air assault training, in the forests of Fort Bragg, Nov. 15-18. CAB provided three Black Hawks and a CH-47 Chinook to transport three squads of infantrymen to the village, as well as a gun team to de-rig a HMMWV and place it in position to provide additional security.
When the Black Hawks touched down at the village, the infantrymen rushed the buildings. The soldiers’ objective was to clear all of the buildings, detaining or killing all enemy personnel including their high-value target, in one hour.
Because the soldiers have been training step-by-step for the past three weeks for this type of exercise, the platoons were able to fully complete their mission in record time. Paratroopers with 2nd Platoon, B Company, 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, cleared the village in only half the allotted time, and were flying away from the objective with 15 minutes to spare.
As paratroopers, these soldiers are used to conducting airborne missions. This type of training instills the soldiers’ proficiency in air assault missions, using helicopters as another method of transportation to get them to the battle.
This training mission is designed to be as close to the real thing as possible, said Sgt. Christopher Zamudio, an infantryman with 3rd Platoon, C Company, 1/325 AIR.
“The more real the training, the better is it for us,” Zamudio said. “Especially if we have an air assault mission down range; we’ll already know what to expect.”
Adding to the reality of the training, soldiers and “opposing forces” used short-range training ammunition to add an increased level of stress to the operation and treat the mission like the real thing.
This ammunition allows soldiers to fire real rounds in an urban training environment. Several of the soldiers compared being hit with the rounds to being shot with a paint ball. Although the rounds are non-lethal, a soldier will definitely know when he has been hit. Firing these rounds from an M4 rifle also gives the marksman a feel for the real thing, as the training rounds cause the weapon to recoil in the same manner as shooting lethal ammunition.
“Anyone can be Rambo when no one’s shooting at them,” said Maj. Paul Grant, the battalion operations officer. “Shooting [training rounds] forces them to take this more seriously,” Grant said.
The Red Falcons have been conducting close quarter marksmanship training, close quarter battle training, room clearing drills and squad attacks to prepare for this collective training event. They have progressed from individual training to team and squad level, finally culminating in this platoon level mission, Grant said.
The importance of this training is not lost on these soldiers, but making the exercise fun and enjoyable increases their effectiveness. “It’s really good training, and a lot of fun, too,” said Pfc. Ryan Lema, an assistant machine gunner with 2nd Platoon, B Company, 1/325 AIR. “Very tactical.”
“These guys are training on some complex tasks, but having fun,” Grant said. “And because they’re enjoying it, they’re training harder.”