By 1LT Tony Formica
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - When the soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment “Bobcats” returned to Fort Wainwright after a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan they learned that they would have to wait almost six months before their Stryker vehicles returned to Alaska.
The want of vehicles hasn’t hampered training. In fact, it presents an opportunity to train Soldiers on basic and essential infantry skills, according to one company commander.
“This is an opportunity to train the Soldiers up on a range of individual-level tasks that might have gotten rusty over the course of the deployment,” Capt. Mike Nolan, commander of Apache Co., 1-5th Infantry Regiment says. “We can still practice the fundamentals of Soldiering that these men will need later when training gets more complex with the incorporation of the Stryker vehicle.”
This mentality guides a list of basic tasks Nolan calls the “Apache Top 10”. He says he brought those training fundamentals with him from his previous assignment in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
First Lt. James Bryson is the officer in charge of designing and implementing the training.
“The Apache Top 10 is designed to get the Soldiers ready for Stryker Gunnery and EIB (Expert Infantryman Badge) training that we’ll be doing later,” Bryson says. “It’s already paying huge dividends in a lot of our other training events.”
What exactly are those top 10 tasks?
According to Bryson, they include mastering the assembly, disassembly, and use of six different common weapon systems used in a Stryker platoon, calling for artillery fire, calling in helicopters for medical extraction of wounded Soldiers from the battlefield, reacting to a nuclear, biological, or chemical attack, and ruck marching — lots and lots of ruck marching. One of the highlights of the Apache Top 10 program is a 20-mile ruck march, which the company completed last Friday.
Apache Soldiers say they have already seen the benefits of training on the basics of their profession.
“I was never really that comfortable with the Mark-19 (the automatic grenade launcher on top of several Stryker variants) until I had a chance to work with it consistently during the Apache Top 10,” Spc. Nathanial Hilton of Oxford, Conn., says
Apache NCOs voice similar support for their new training regimen.
“I saw a huge improvement in the Soldiers after just one hour of training,” Sgt. Russell Smith of Nashville, Tenn., says.
“It’s not just about training these guys up in the basics,” adds Sgt. Daniel Miranda of Denver, Colo. “We also need to give these guys the confidence that if they need to fix a problem on their weapon, or if their buddy gets wounded, they’ll be able to react properly and save the life of either themselves or that buddy.”
Ltc. Jason Wesbrock, the commander of the Bobcat battalion, said he is similarly enthusiastic about the Apache Top 10.
“What Capt. Nolan has done with his company is just incredible,” he says. “The Apache Top 10 has a phenomenal focus on individual-level tasks that will set the Apaches up for further success in collective training … it is great to see such a strong focus on developing individual Soldiers.”