News: Competition brings training to new level
Story by Sgt. Angela Parady
CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo - Twenty two teams from the South Carolina National Guard’s Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment, competed under various weather conditions, physical stress, mental fatigue and against a clock to determine which team is the best.
Bravo Company’s Fire Team Competition, held at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, during the last week of October provided an opportunity for team leaders to evaluate their soldiers’ and teams’ proficiencies while at the same time building camaraderie, maintaining preparedness, and learning to keep focus in all situations.
Sgt. Steven P. McFarland is one of the team leaders here. His team consists of Pfc. Grant A. Nabors and Pfc. Caleb R. Lane. All three soldiers are from Greenville, S.C. Most fire teams are comprised of four soldiers, so McFarland had to determine how to carry out the same duties with a three-man team.
McFarland pointed out that as infantrymen they need to constantly review where they are in their training, and continue to maintain their skills. Here in Kosovo, these soldiers are facing a different mission, so being prepared for anything is just one of the lessons learned.
“As infantrymen, we are taught and trained every day of our career to find the enemy and kill them,” he said. “A peacekeeping mission, that’s completely different. It’s outside of our comfort zone, so we have to adapt and overcome. The most frequent, frustrating thing that I always hear coming out of soldiers is, ‘that’s not my mission, that’s not my job.’ Well that’s not an excuse. You need to adapt and overcome.”
Training and competitions keep the soldiers ready for any situation and prevents them from getting complacent.
“We need to know this,” said Nabors. “We need to practice this. We need to be prepared so if something does happen, we can do it without thinking. We will just do it.”
McFarland said that the competition included all of the fundamental skills that are necessary for their job. Conducting the training in a competitive atmosphere helped bring out the best in the soldiers while at the same time increasing the pressure on them during the different tasks.
Nabors, the team’s squad automatic weapon gunner, agreed. He said, “as an infantry soldier all these tasks are the basics of what we need to know. If we don’t know this, then we can’t operate properly when we are actually on a mission where we have to react to something like an injury, or react to contact.”
With a running clock, the soldiers tactically moved from point to point while providing 360 degree security the whole way. They completed land navigation tasks, hiked through the hilly terrain to treat and transport a wounded soldier, and put together a radio so they could call in a request for a medical evacuation. They climbed through the underbrush and bounded around the objectives as they took fire from a suspected enemy. The competitive nature of the training made the event more challenging by increasing the stress on the soldiers.
McFarland said the competition forced the soldiers to stay focused.
“With competition, everyone tries harder. You have more drive. More motivation. It is more challenging. And every guy likes competition, especially an infantryman.”
Seigler agreed. “These are infantry guys, competition is good for them,” he said. “It makes us all better, in all ways. These guys, they want to fight hard, and they want to win that prize. It makes them work that much harder.”
Nabors said that for him the greatest obstacle was the need to separate all the knowledge he had, and being able to use the right information at the right time.
“The problem is not necessarily not knowing the information sometimes, but rather, in a competition you get up there and you have so much in your head,” he said. “So much information, because you know you are being tested on it, and you always want to know more than you think you will need. So then, you get up there and some stuff gets scrambled, it gets reversed. You mix up the little details that you know you shouldn’t. This is a competition, and it helps you practice. So when you are stressed, when you are rushed, and when you need to do it in real life, you don’t mess up.”
Lane found the training to be very useful. Combining basic tasks with the added stress from the competition helped the soldier know his own limits and capabilities.
McFarland agreed; he said that the competition gave him a better idea of where his team stood physically, and what they can continue to work on.
“With all the hills and high stress on the body, useful training on how to control our heart rate would have been useful, and we wouldn’t have fatigued so early on the hills,” he said. “Being able to constantly maintain a sense of tactical awareness, being alert all the time, all while being fatigued.”
First Lt. John C. Seigler, executive officer and officer in charge for the competition course, said the purpose of the event was to give the team leaders insight moving forward.
“The goal of the competition is to put the team leaders into a position where they could access and evaluate their team’s proficiency at the warrior level one skills and tasks,” said Seigler. “So, we had several lanes set up from orienteering or map reading, another one for first aid and communications,
one for weapons maintenance and nuclear, biological and chemical reaction training, and then we had the range.”
“These guys learned a lot, they learned a lot about themselves,” said Seigler. “The squad leaders got a chance to evaluate themselves, to see where they are in their training. It lets them continue to formulate their training plans going forward.”
Lane, the team’s rifleman, said that during the event, they climbed the largest hill on Camp Bondsteel, donned their NBC protective masks and then continued down to the range where they measured their ability to accurately shoot targets that were called out. The whole time they were carrying their body armor, helmets, water, and assigned weapons.
Even though the clock stopped after the last round was fired, time could be added to the final score depending on the reviewing officer’s critique of the team. Penalties could be assessed for reversing coordinates on a map, failing to maintain full security at all times, or other areas where the team did not meet the standards.
At the end of the competition, there was one team that won with the fastest time and least amount of penalties. Sgt. Logan Misevicz and his team, Spc. Justin D. Stokholm, Spc. Peter J. Palmer and Pfc. Timothy G. Koon, finished the course in under 55 minutes - but everyone was able to learn valuable lessons from the training.