CAMP SANTIAGO, Puerto Rico – Approximately 40 Illinois National Guard Special Forces Soldiers with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Chicago conducted foreign internal defense training with the Puerto Rico National Guard, April 2 to 6, 2014 at Camp Santiago in Salinas, Puerto Rico.
More than 300 Puerto Rico National Guardsmen were familiarized with marksmanship training, mechanical and ballistic breaching procedures, military operations on urban terrain and close-quarter battle techniques.
“We were able to teach basic fundamentals to establish a baseline of proficiency to build upon in future training,” said a weapons sergeant with the Company A, 2-20th. “They were very receptive and we were able to challenge their abilities.”
SF Soldiers shared techniques for more accurate and proficient shooting with the M16A2 rifle, M4 Carbine, M249 squad automatic weapon and M240B machine gun.
“The tactical weapons training was the best part,” said Spc. Christopher Figueroa, with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 296th Infantry Regiment in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. “The opportunity to fire crew serve weapons was very beneficial and refreshing.”
Each unit said they gained language proficiency, because both English and Spanish were spoken throughout the training.
“This was the first time I had to use English for training,” said Spc. Eric Aponte, an infantryman with Company A, 1st Battalion, 296th Infantry Regiment in Utuado, Puerto Rico. “They have been great at explaining the training step by step and I learned a lot.”
The training was an opportunity for SF Soldiers to maintain their primary skillsets in a foreign culture while advancing language capabilities. Puerto Rico Guardsmen improved their ability to operate as a cohesive unit with a culminating exercise that involved mission planning, movement as a 30-man element and operating in a complex urban environment.
In the past three years Company A, 2-20th has deployed four operational detachments to Central America for long-term FID missions, but this is the first time in more than 10 years Company A, 2-20th conducted training in Puerto Rico.
“There were long days with little sleep, but everyone enjoyed the training,” said 1st Lt. Alexis Avellanet, the executive officer for Company C, 1st Battalion, 296th Infantry Regiment in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. “We will take this back to our units and raise the standard of training.”