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    1st AD CAB stresses Soldier fundamentals, critical thinking during SOY competition

    1st AD CAB stresses Soldier fundamentals, critical thinking during SOY competition

    Photo By David Poe | Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division “Iron Eagle” Soldiers stack on a...... read more read more



    Story by David Poe 

    Fort Bliss Public Affairs Office

    As a wrinkle in their ruck march challenge during their Soldier and NCO of the Year competitions last week, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division “Iron Eagle” Soldier squads had to carry two large water canteens for their entire almost-13-mile trek.

    Brimming with five gallons of water at the beginning of the journey, some Soldiers carried the hulking containers dutifully, returning to the start point in under three hours with aching muscles to show for it.

    Other Soldiers took the instruction as it was presented – carry two five-gallon water canteens. When the cans were returned, there was not a drop of water in them, and that was the spirit of the event: encouraging innovation, quick and effective thinking and individual Soldier input on the squad level to complete missions more effectively.

    “We want them to think critically,” said Master Sgt. Robert Horn, a 1st CAB senior NCO and the lead organizer for the three-day brigade event. “Some of them came up with a better way to carry the water jugs – some of them did it the hard way. They did some thinking and that’s what we were trying to get them to do.”

    Spc. Reginald Chumley, a Soldier from the 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 501st Av. Regiment, and Cpl. Arthur Brooks, a Soldier from Company A, 127th Av. Sup. Bn., were named the brigade’s Soldier of the year and NCO of the Year respectively.

    Horn said the traditional tasks for an Army Aviation Soldier have shifted as the Army’s mission evolves and brigade leadership wanted the Soldier of the Year competitions to reflect that evolution.

    “We can put helicopters in the air, but a lot of the time, I think we’re losing out on those basic ‘Soldier skills.’ About a year ago, I got with (1st AD CAB) Command Sgt. Maj. (James) Hall and we talked about how we could put them in a ‘critical thinking type of atmosphere.’”

    Therefore, this year, CAB Soldiers were taken off the flight line in a figurative sense for much of the competition. After successful Army Physical Fitness Tests, Soldiers were evenly grouped for squad-level tactics with appropriate team leader and platoon sergeant NCOs. Horn said while some teams did better than others on the ruck march, which started the competition, he was especially impressed about one thing by the entire brigade’s performance during the rainy, wet trek across East Fort Bliss.

    “All teams made it back within XVIII Airborne (Corps) standards,” he said of the unofficial Airborne Corps mark of excellence for ruck marches as all teams returned within three hours. “For everything we put them through (in SOY competitions), I’ve never had a Soldier go back to the CAB who didn’t say it was challenging and that they loved it. Soldiers’ morale relies on challenges – if they’re doing the same stuff day in and day out, they forget where they are and who they are to the unit.”

    Another wrinkle, CAB senior NCOs who designed the competition even heavily considered the detail of the less-than-ideal 30-minute break between the ruck march and weapons familiarization and Urban Operations competitions.

    “That’s a mental game right there,” Horn said about translating the lack of predictability and scheduling from the battlefield to the competition. “They’re counting the clock down and it is just not enough time – trust me.”

    While medics checked out Soldiers’ feet as they changed into clean socks, crews scrambled to eat and bounce back from the strain of the morning march. Horn said that beyond the formulaic scoring of competitions like Soldier of the Year, competition evaluators were watching who had emerged as leaders in their groups.

    “After a 12-mile, you want to take a break and let those muscles start cooling down,” Horn said. “There we are watching to see if the team leaders are watching their Soldiers, asking them ‘are you eating?’ or ‘are you drinking?’ We want to see them talking – those times are no time for a nap.”

    Following the ruck, Soldiers were evaluated on the disassembly and reassembly of squad-level weapons, followed by a timed run through an interior floor of an aviation support building that was teeming with roleplaying enemies.

    “Being Aviation, we took them out of their comfort zones,” said Horn. “We’re getting them a lot of training through our Soldier of the Quarter competitions that they wouldn’t get as Aviation. When you’re in combat, you’re in combat. When you’re downrange, there is no reset. Don’t get complacent because you never know where you may find yourself.”

    The UO event ended with a simulated IED scenario that notionally damaged the group, calling on teammates to extract, aid and transport injured teammates. Infantry NCOs participated in the event to offer firsthand insight and challenge CAB Soldiers to apply buddy care and defend those who are tending to injured comrades, all in a moment’s notice.

    The two days of competition culminated with a professional board that included aviation warrant officer members to offer candidates a wide array of technical areas from which to be challenged. Horn said the questions for all Soldiers were kept top secret, not only to evaluate the respective Soldier’s knowledge on important subjects, but also to see how they respond to pressure – a common thread throughout the competition.

    “Traditional aviation brigades may not do what we do,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Hall, who shuttled through the events for motivation and mentorship throughout the program. “It’s easy to focus on the flying and memorizing the answers to questions out of a book. I’m proud of what we’re doing because it’s reality – ‘it’ could happen. Instead of only answering questions in a room somewhere, I’m glad we’re doing this.”

    To learn more about the “Iron Eagles” follow them on Facebook at @1ADCAB.



    Date Taken: 10.17.2018
    Date Posted: 12.26.2018 16:18
    Story ID: 305152
    Location: FORT BLISS, TX, US 

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