FORT BENNING, Ga. - Tanks boomed, rifles cracked, and microphones squawked at Fort Benning, Ga., during the last week of January as 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, soldiers prepared for their upcoming rotation at the largest training facility in the continental United States.
The National Training Center, located at Fort Irwin, Calif., is the destination for most of the soldiers as they prepare for any contingency mission they may be called to execute.
The vision of the National Training Center is to train the transformed Army by conducting force-on-force and live-fire training for ground and aviation brigades in a joint scenario across the spectrum of conflict, using a live-virtual-constructive training model, as portrayed by a highly lethal and capable opposing force and controlled by expert and experienced trainer-mentors. In short, NTC simulates the worst day possible for any Army unit.
For the soldiers preparing to tackle NTC, the mission starts on Kelley Hill.
“Since I’ve been here, we have set up this equipment at least a dozen times,” said Pfc. John Grasso, a radio operator with Company B, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd HBCT. “Experienced soldiers leave, and new soldiers come. We train and retrain to verify we are all good at setting up our equipment.”
Every member of the Sledgehammer team works together to complete the mission and honing those skills at Fort Benning is key to success as the stakes increase.
“When we do this kind of stuff, it’s important to train first; dry, blank and live,” said Staff Sgt. Richard Palmer, a squad leader with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd HBCT. “It’s important to identify weak areas before going live.”
More than identifying potential problems, training at home allows the mission to become second-nature.
“For example, we carry more gear now,” said Palmer. “It’s heavier, harder to maneuver. But in the long run, it’s safer. With the right amount of training it becomes like a second skin.”
The training is demanding, but soldiers understand the importance of mastery.
“Its infantry,” said Pfc. Daniel Stone, a squad automatic weapon gunner with Company A, 2-69 AR. “It’s one of our battle drills, we have to know how to do this, and do it well.”