News: Buffaloes lead charge to YTC
Story by Staff Sgt. Bryan Dominique
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – It was a frigid 31 degrees this morning at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., but it's about to get a whole lot colder for the soldiers of 2-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division.
“You’re gonna fight the weather. It’s gonna be Feb. in Yakima, so historically there’s 40 mile per hour wind and the average temperature is in the 30s during the day, and it will dip into the 20s at night. That right there alone will toughen you up,” said Maj. John Gibson, operations officer for the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 2-2 SBCT.
The 2-2 SBCT is starting its some 60-day exercise at the Yakima Training Center in eastern Washington today, and the soldiers of 1-17 Inf. are leading the charge.
“This is actually my first field [exercise]. I just graduated [Advanced Individual Training] at the end of Aug.,” said Spc. Christopher Clanton, a combat medic with Company C, 1-17 Inf. “I feel like I’m ready, just anxious, like before you take a test. You know how to do it, but you’re still anxious.”
According to Gibson, approximately 30 percent of the battalion’s soldiers are like Clanton in the fact that they are new to the Army, and the stakes are high.
The exercise in YTC has been tailored to prepare soldiers for an upcoming rotation to the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif. If successful at NTC, the brigade will be certified for deployment, making them a globally available Stryker Brigade.
“The purpose of training is to learn what you’re not good at so you can get better at it. Training creates deficiencies. You identify what those are, then you go train on those again,” said Gibson. “You don’t ever want to do something for the first time in combat. Being able to do all these things here in the United States, we’re in a safe environment, we can practice and find out what we’re not good at [so we can] get after those things.”
The real challenge, however, has little to do with training because the challenge with new soldiers is, “They just haven’t done it before,” said Gibson.
“We’re really relying on [non-commissioned officers] and officers to train them and make sure everything is right.”
The brigade is treating the movement to Yakima just as it would a deployment anywhere in the world.
“We want to treat this as a deployment so it’s a repetition for NTC, then any future deployment,” said Maj. Lou Kangas, executive officer for 1-17 Inf.
Each of the six battalions in 2-2 SBCT is slated to spend approximately one month at the Yakima Training Center.
Compared to the 12 and nine month deployments soldiers and families have grown accustomed to over the last several years, this may seem short, but with some 30 percent of the formation never having experienced a deployment, one month may seem like a long time.
“This is the first time a lot of spouses will have to be by themselves,” said Kangas.
To prepare families, 1-17 Inf. held a town hall meeting to discuss what they can expect from the battalion, what soldiers will be doing while they’re away, and the resources available for support.
Representatives from agencies such as Army Community Service, the Judge Advocate General, Child Youth Services, Tricare, and the Red Cross, were present and armed family members with the knowledge needed to utilize these programs.
“For Families, information is power,” said Gibson.
Despite the challenges ahead, however, everyone is confident that YTC will be a success.
“These soldiers are ready and their hungry. I’m looking forward to seeing all the awesome things they’re gonna do in YTC. This is just another step on the road to NTC,” said Lt. Col. Shannon Nielson, 1-17 Inf. battalion commander.