News: Silent soldiers train on recon
Story by Spc. Hannah Frenchick
YAKIMA TRAINING CENTER, Wash. – Six soldiers carefully stalk up a sagebrush covered hill, the only sound you hear is the shuffling of their boots over the rocks and dirt. Once reaching the top of the hill, the point man holds up his hand signaling halt, and the five following him stop in their steps. The point man follows with another hand signal and the six move in from their wedge formation into a single file line low to the ground.
Soldiers of 2nd Detachment, C/38th (ABN) Long Range Surveillance Company, 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, practiced reconnaissance drills, platoon movement and convoy movement at Yakima Training Center, June 25.
Long range surveillance units aren’t common in the Army. There are only three active LRS units.
“There is a whole lineage stretching back all the way to Vietnam and it is an honor to be here,” said Staff Sgt. Kenneth C. Rolle, team leader, C/38th LRS. “We do missions that aren’t typical for your average infantryman.”
The work the LRS performs isn’t the same as an average infantryman, although the skills learned in advanced individual training are used.
“A lot of these guys came from basic or AIT at Fort Benning, Ga., where they learned how to be an infantry soldier,” said Sgt. Christopher Brown, assistant team leader, C/38th LRS. “They take those tasks and we try to train them to be a long range surveillance soldier. They now are using those same tactics and techniques and broadening their horizon of the entire job.”
The training these guys are receiving helps not only the other LRS teams, but also other units that depend on the information they are able to gather.
“[The training] is important for my unit because this is what we do for a living, it’s our bread and butter,” said 1st Lt. Nicholas Garver, 2nd detachment leader, C/38th LRS. “As a reconnaissance and surveillance company, we provide intelligence of the battlefield for commanders.”
With the unit going through a transitioning phase, experienced lower enlisted soldiers have stepped up to the plate, incoming leadership is finding their footing, and all soldiers, enlisted or officer, are taking advantage of the training and environment while at Yakima Training Center.
“Right now we are in a walking phase and evaluation of what our teams are capable of doing,” said Garver, a Huntsville, Ala., native. “It’s important for my guys to go ahead and understand the fundamentals and basics before we can start moving to more advanced operations.”
The job of reconnaissance and surveillance is both physically and mentally demanding on a soldier, Yakima Training Center has provided an environment similar to what may appear during full-spectrum operations.
“The job is physically taxing because you have to move long distances with a heavy load, that supports you while on a mission,” said Spc. Brendon E. Wellendorf, senior scout observer, C/38th LRS. “It’s mentally taxing because you plan your own operation order, everything you do is planned by you and your team. The ability to stay out of sight and to have the mental discipline not to move around during the day and be discovered is just as taxing as the physical stuff.”
Besides being physically and mentally strong, a reconnaissance soldiers senses must be up to par as well.
“When teams conduct a short halt, they will do what is called SLLS, stop, look, listen, and smell,” said Brown, an Olympia, Wash., native. “During the halt it is important that the team remains completely still and silent so they can use their senses when observing the area. When stopped the team looks around the entire area looking for any immediate threats. They listen for any sounds. The last thing is smell. The team sees if they can smell anything like trash burning, fires, or the smell of any food. That’s the initial security the team pulls.”
As the soldiers on the hilltop get set to quietly observe the valleys below them, a two-man team heads down the hillside to check a ravine that the team can’t clearly see. As the soldiers get smaller, the gunner on the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, watches the area around them for enemy troops and the quiet of Yakima Training Center takes over.