News: Arrowhead Soldiers prove that practice makes perfect
Story by Staff Sgt. Justin A. Naylor
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – As they sat inside the troop holding area, you could tell it had been a long two days. Now they were waiting to wrap up the last event to prove that all their practice and hard work had paid off. All they needed to do was load their Stryker vehicles onto C-17 aircraft and it was mission complete.
Soldiers with Company A, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, took part in a combined training exercise with Airmen from the 62nd Airlift Wing on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., Aug. 21-22.
The event was designed to test the readiness and quick response of the Soldiers as they paired up with Airmen.
The two-day event began with a pre-dawn phone call from leaders to their Soldiers informing them that it was time to go. They then assembled and checked their equipment. Soldiers who stayed in the barracks closed out their rooms and those with vehicles turned them in to the storage lot.
From there they went through the motions of a short-notification rapid deployment as they readied their gear and moved it to the airfield to be loaded onto an aircraft.
This event was the culmination of months of hard work and rehearsals that began at the ground floor.
“We started at the basic level,” said 2nd Lt. Clayton Shillings, a Houston native and platoon leader with A Company. “Every Soldier was qualified on their respective weapon system. After that we went to Yakima (Training Center) for two weeks. We went into team live fire and each team was certified.”
The training progressed through squad, platoon and company levels before the Soldiers returned to JBLM. They then began their practices for this particular event.
“There was a whole bunch of rehearsals,” said Capt. Bradley Goodyear, a York, Pa., native and A Co. commander. “We did rehearsals at the division, brigade, battalion and company levels. We did tabletop exercises; we actually did a terrain model all leading up to this.”
The training and drills were all designed to help Soldiers and leaders feel confident about the process.
“If the first time you do it is the actual call to go to war, the chances of something happening that you are not prepared for are high, so we do rehearsals to prepare ourselves...to work out any kinks,” Goodyear said. “The more and more we do this, the more little things we find that we can tweak to make the whole process more efficient.”
The practice beforehand helped the Soldiers progress quickly through the two days worth of training events as they continually outperformed set timelines.
“It definitely paid off,” Shillings said. “Everything went very smoothly to the point where we had more downtime than we thought we would. What that insures is that every level—including our own—is that we can tell we are ready to go, all our weapons systems will work when we get there, none of our night vision equipment will be broken when we arrive and everything is mission capable and we are able to execute whatever is given to us at the time.”
Although the training was just a test for the Soldiers, it opened their eyes to all the work that goes into getting an infantry unit off the base.
“I’ve never really been deployed,” said Pfc. Erik Kanthak, a Cincinnati native and medic with A Company. “I’ve been to Yakima a few times and did the (National Training Center) thing. I think it made us more ready, more aware of what we need to do. I think with this training, now we will be able to do it even faster if we need to.”
The Soldiers weren’t the only ones training during the event.
“I think the entire process will go faster now because the civilians and Air Force, those guys had more practice,” Shillings said. “They had a lot of hand on training with some news guys that the Air Force was training while we were doing this operation and those guys took a while to get the Strykers tied down exactly right, which was good because they needed the practice, and I think now they’ve got it down to the point where they can be faster next time and everything will go smoother.”
As the Soldiers loaded the final Stryker and took their seats on the C-17, they knew that two days of hard work and months of training beforehand had paid off. They are fast and ready for any mission that comes their way.