News: Convoy live fire prepares engineering soldiers for deployment
Story by Staff Sgt. Antwaun Parrish
ORCHARD COMBAT TRAINING CENTER, Idaho – As the forceful winds blew dense dust across the desolate Idaho plains, shell casings spouted from the light machine gun, forming copper pools on the roof of the up-armor Humvee. The convoy continued to move forward as the rookie machine gunner scanned his sector and rotated his turret aiming at various targets throughout the area.
Soldiers assigned to 585th Engineer Company, 864th Engineer Battalion conducted convoy live fire training October 6 at Orchard Combat Training Center, Idaho. The training was a part of battalion’s preparation for an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan to conduct theater combat engineer support and to train Afghan National Security Forces.
OCTC is located 14-miles south of Boise, it is a National Guard base that has similar conditions much like soldiers will experience downrange. The unit was already scheduled to conduct construction training at OCTC, but when orders came for an earlier deployment date, the training site allowed them the flexibility to prepare the entire battalion on battlefield preparations.
Convoy live-fire training prepares soldiers to shoot and successfully engage their targets while moving as they could face similar situations during deployment missions.
“This is the stuff they need to learn now,” said Sgt. Andrew Calbick. “Most of the Soldiers have never deployed yet. This gives them a taste of what it could be like over there.”
Calbick, an interior electrician, previously deployed with the battalion to Afghanistan He explained that keeping the basics in mind would help Soldiers during their missions downrange.
“Tactics, techniques and procedures are important elements of what they need to learn to be successful,” said Calbick, a native of Sierra Vista, Ariz. “The training experience is a good foot in the door.”
Pfc. Dalton Mehm was the gunner assigned to Calbick’s vehicle. This was his first time doing convoy training as he prepares for his first deployment.
“It’s one of the more eventful things we’ve done,” said Mehm, a native of Jacksonville, Fla. “Before this I only fired the weapon from a sitting position. Firing from a moving vehicle is fun, and it prepares us a lot better.”
As they traveled through the vast training area Mehm encountered a few challenges, but is learning to effectively overcome them.
“It was hard for me to keep the weapon steady to properly aim,” Mehm said. “This is the second time I shot this weapon; however, I think I did pretty good.”
Calbick said he was pleased with Mehm’s performance, he admits that there are a few things that he needs to improve on, but overall he did a great job.
“He performed very efficiently,” Calbick said. “His weapon jammed like six or seven times. He was up there doing immediate and remedial action. Being this is his first time shooting from a moving vehicle, there are some small improvements, but I think he is pretty efficient at what he does.”
As a leader, it’s Calbick’s job to ensure that Mehm receives remedial training based on the assessment he receives from the after action review.
“He needs to rotate through his sector of fire constantly,” Calbick said. “He didn’t see some targets that we missed so we have to get him used to scanning the entire area. Also, I will go over stances he can do in the turret so he can have more control.”
Mehm explained that he has never been a big weapons guy but feels like one once he places his finger on the trigger.
“I get excited when its time to fire,” Mehm said. “Especially the 249 [Squad Automatic Weapon], it gets me pumped!”
Although Calbick has never been in a convoy firefight he still uses the experiences he encountered from his previous deployment to get his soldiers prepared for what lies ahead.
“I just tell them what worked best for my squad downrange,” Calbick said. “I give them the opportunity to understand and know what I’ve been through.”
The battalion has been training at the OCTC since Sept. 23 with an expected departure date of Oct. 24. They expect to have the unit proficient and ready for their deployment.
Mehm believes that he is gaining valuable experience during the month-long exercise that will help him accomplish his unit’s mission effectively.
“I had no idea what a convoy would be like,” Mehm said. “But I now have an idea of what to expect based on what I’ve learned here.”