News: Failing light, setting for successful training
Story by Staff Sgt. Dayan Neely
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – The U.S. Army owes a lot of its success in combat to the ability to operate in dark hours. Under black skies blanketed by clouds, soldiers from Forward Support Company, 14th Engineer Battalion, 555th Engineer Brigade conducted nighttime driver’s training Feb. 27.
Soon, the soldiers will join 2-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. The night driving was part of weeklong training designed to fine tune the platoon’s capabilities.
“All of the training that we’re doing out here is going to accomplish our overall (desired) training and what matters at NTC,” said 2nd Lt. Shaun Cunningham, the Forward Support Company’s distribution platoon leader.
Utilizing night vision optics, the drivers maneuvered the rocky, rolling hills of JBLM’s training areas, moving the convoy through water holes and up steep grades. The purpose of the exercise was to build confidence in much less than optimal conditions.
“My intent was to get everyone out here doing something or learning something new,” said Cunningham. “We also are doing a lot of cross-training.”
Cunningham pointed out that his platoon is short-staffed and that his soldiers stepped up to handle extra work as a result.
“The training itself was a little tasking because of our manpower issues,” stated Sgt. 1st Class Fernando Perez, the distribution platoon sergeant. “But, [the training] has still kept the squad tactics in place, and that’s what we’re out here for.”
At the end of the road course, a simulated enemy surprised the convoy with an ambush. The drivers and passengers were met with gunfire from every direction while passing through a training village.
“I just wanted everyone to get comfortable with night driving,” said Cunningham. “And getting them used to direct fire, ambushes, reacting to contact, seeing what IEDs look like, and just the overall experience of what [combat] is like.”
“I thought it was great!” said Pfc. Edward Gomez, a truck driver in the distribution platoon. “I’m new. I’ve only been here for four months, and I’m learning a lot.”