News: Oregon National Guard infantry unit ‘trains like they fight’ one weekend a month
Story by Spc. Erin Quirke
SALEM, Ore. – Nearby trees sway frantically as clouds of red smoke sweep across the empty meadow. The rotors of the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter blur into nebulous dark streaks against the clear, blue sky as it hovers just inches over the rippling grass.
Soldiers, nestled into firing positions in the surrounding bushes, brace themselves against the turbulent wind, watching as their buddies move swiftly towards the helicopter to load the wounded for safe transport out of hostile territory.
This is how soldiers with the Oregon Army National Guard’s Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry Regiment, 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, spent their drill-weekend. The infantry company conducted a large-scale training exercise simulating battlefield scenarios March 9-10 at the Fairview Training Center in Salem, Ore.
Bravo Company’s headquarters is based in Coos Bay, Ore., and the unit’s Detachment 1 is located in St. Helens, Ore. The Fairview Training Center provided a central location where the two units could meet and train together.
“We mesh incredibly well considering we are stationed in two different places,” said Sgt. Justin Gray, with Bravo Company headquarters in Coos Bay, Ore. “Today was all about being able to adapt, overcome and succeed in what we do together, and we did just that.”
The goal of the exercise was to provide realistic training for any given situation. Noise simulators provided grenade explosions. Blank ammunition simulated an attack from the opposing force and triggered a firefight. Canisters of thick, red smoke billowed out a smoke-screen to reduce visibility.
“This is the best training we’ve had so far,” said Spc. William Ashley, based in Coos Bay, Ore. “It’s beneficial for us to be able to practice our situational awareness of any obstacles we may encounter in order to prepare us for the real thing.”
The training exercise hit on key infantry skills, such as moving tactically in rough terrain, communications, obstacles, treating and evacuating the wounded, and being able to resolve any unexpected problems along the way.
“This training was great,” said Cpl. Andrew J. Miller, also based out of Coos Bay, Ore. “Our commanding officer is working hard to make sure we have effective and useful training at all times.”
Capt. Mark Timmons, commander of Bravo Company, said his desire is to create challenging training to produce well-trained and motivated soldiers for the state and nation.
“Seeking out new training areas improves the esprit de corps of the unit and challenges soldiers with new situations and circumstances,” he said.
Bravo Company took advantage of every minute during their drill weekend to "train like they fight" by combining urban operations training with medical evacuation training using aviation assets from the Oregon National Guard’s Charlie Company, 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment.
They also incorporated casualty role-players who wore medical simulators which bled like real wounds until medics applied the bandages and tourniquets properly.
“The best thing about the drill this weekend with my Bravo Company was the all-out Oregon Guard effort to make it happen,” said Timmons. “There were 80 soldiers who got more out of that weekend then they have seen in a long time.”
“(The combined efforts) brought a comprehensive combat view and feel to our operations that motivated my soldiers all day and into the night,” he added.
With the motivation of the soldiers and dedication of their commander to provide new training opportunities, the unit is poised to rise-up to any challenge, emanating the "Always Ready, Always There" motto of the Oregon National Guard.