News: Stryker soldiers strive for excellence during vehicle recovery course
Story by Sgt. Thomas Duval
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Combat vehicles often times take a beating whether it’s from improvised explosive devices or the rough and drastically varying terrain in Afghanistan. When a vehicle gets stuck or severely damaged, it becomes inoperable or “deadlined” making it difficult to move off the battlefield.
Soldiers deployed to Kandahar Airfield with the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, the “Arctic Wolves”, recently honed their ability to tackle this issue in an effort to prevent unnecessary loss of both personnel and vehicles during a wheeled vehicle recovery course Sept. 26-28.
“The Hotel 8 course is designed to provide recovery soldiers with the tools to perform combat recovery operations safely and efficiently,” said Lt. Col. John McMurray, commander of 25th Brigade Support Battalion.
The course was offered to light and heavy-wheeled mechanics and utilized both a classroom portion and a hands-on field exercise.
The three-day course encompassed more than 80 hours of training that focused on rigging, recovering and towing wheeled vehicles.
“The course allows soldiers to refresh on techniques that they may not use every day while allowing them to learn new equipment,” said Pfc. Brandon Locke, a Frazeysburg, Ohio, native, and mechanic assigned to the 1/25 SBCT.
“This course is an 80-hour program of instruction that not only challenges the soldiers academically, but also provides some of the best hands on recovery instruction a commander could ask for,” McMurray said.
The field exercise was the highlight of the event and it required soldiers to use their hands on training to successfully recover a tractor trailer from a large ‘mire pit’, a pit filled with mud.
The dirt and water mixture mixed with heavy equipment proved to be a mechanics dream.
“It was awesome to get out there and have a little bit of fun while still doing some good ‘high-speed’ training,” Locke laughed.
Locke said that although the course was enjoyable for most of the mechanics it wasn’t all fun and games. He insists that the training and lessons learned were well earned and at the end of the day will translate to mission success on the battlefield.
After successfully graduating the course soldiers received an Army additional skill identifier known as H8. For mechanics obtaining the H8 identifier is a benchmark that very few reach and for the ‘Arctic Wolf’ mechanics it makes a mark reached by only 24 mechanics throughout the more than 4,000-soldier brigade.
“The course puts you above everybody else in your class,” Locke said.
This was only the second time that the course was offered at KAF. Typically deployed soldiers are forced to travel to Bagram, often times making the course an unreasonable solution to battlefield proficiency.
Lt. Col. John McMurray, commander of 25th Brigade Support Battalion, brought the program to KAF to increase awareness, efficiency and the overall survivability of both soldiers and vehicles in a combat environment.
McMurray and the 25th BSB hope to make the course more frequently available and continue to improve safety and survivability of each soldier and piece of equipment through similar training opportunities.
McMurray said, “As we go into the rainy season here in Afghanistan or as we call it here in the 25th BSB, ‘Stryker recovery season’, I am confident that I have the best 24 H8 qualified recovery specialists on the battlefield.”