JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Nearing the end of a 10-day field training exercise, soldiers of the 22nd Engineer Clearance Company, 14th Engineer Battalion, competed for the honor of being called the company’s best squad, March 19, on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
The squads were faced with basic soldier and engineering related challenges such as emplacing wired-obstacles to prevent enemy movement, hindering enemy movement with a simulated crater blast, treating a casualty, calling up a nine line medivac request and prepping a landing zone.
“I think they did a really good job,” said Sgt. 1st Class Che Pickens, a platoon sergeant with the engineering company. “I’ve been tracking both of my squads throughout and they’ve been working hard; both squads are smoked.”
Pickens, who is preparing his soldiers for a deployment to Afghanistan this fall, said it’s important to have competitions like this because it builds morale within platoons, within squads, and within the company and also helps build teamwork.
“I would say only about half of us were on the last deployment with this unit, so the team building is what I like most about what is going on,” he said. “It’s just getting those guys out there and bringing them closer together.”
Pickens said he was also surprised to see that some of his junior enlisted soldiers were showing a lot of leadership potential in certain situations.
“It was good seeing those younger soldiers step up and take charge,” he said ”Now I know who my future leaders are going to be, and when it comes time for the promotion board I already know who I’m looking at.”
Pfc. Nicholas Lawson, a combat engineer, was one of the junior enlisted soldiers that Pickens commended for helping to lead his squad through the competition. He said that despite a few hiccups with land navigation, he was pleased with the event and his squad’s performance.
“We took a few wrong turns and added a couple of miles to the event but everyone kept their motivation up and we kept going,” said Lawson. “It’s all about training and making sure that everyone is working together as a team and everyone is motivated to do the right thing when we get down range and things are actually hectic.”
Lawson said because his first deployment to Afghanistan came right after graduation from advanced individual training, he feels excited this time because he has the chance to train with his team before their upcoming deployment.
“As soon as we got back from Afghanistan half of our guys left the unit and we got a lot of new soldiers who have no idea what we are in for,” he said. “So this training is about the best training you can get in the state of Washington outside of Yakima [Training Center]."
Lawson said he was taking the competition and all of his successes and failures in stride and was looking forward to continuing to train with his unit before their skills were put to the test in Afghanistan.
“My confidence as a soldier hasn’t waned,” he said. “However, it lets us know what we have to work on within our squad, within our platoon, and within our company so when we do get down range and things do hit the fan, we are ready to take it on.”