Back to basics
Closing with the enemy: Charlie Company at Fort Drum
Spc. Trevor Seaton, an infantryman from Keene, communicates with his team during the live-fire exercise at Fort Drum. (Courtesy)
Spc. Jeremy Provencher, an infantryman from Manchester, fires his M-240B machine gun in support of a rifle squad during a live-fire exercise Aug. 6 at Fort Drum, N.Y. His unit, C Company, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain) New Hampshire National Guard, was training on individual and collective skills in preparation for future missions as part of the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain). (Courtesy)
"The mission of the mountain infantry soldier is to close with and destroy the enemies of this nation. Key to the successful completion of that mission is the ability to effectively deliver deadly accurate fire upon said enemy while simultaneously maneuvering within close proximity to kill or capture him. The Infantry, unlike any other of the branches, is the sole formation that is able to seize and hold ground no matter the terrain," said Capt. Alan Corey of Lyman, the commander of C Company.
Having deployed to Iraq from 2004-2005 and Afghanistan in 2010, C Company, also known as "Charlie" Company, specializes in mountain warfare. Its core competency, however, remains the infantry mission. Since its return from Afghanistan in 2010, the unit has incorporated many new soldiers with its combat veterans. So, the unit's training has shifted back to "the basics" of infantry work and away from the counterinsurgency that defined its combat tours.
To address this, the squad members worked as a team to approach and assault an objective consisting of several plywood buildings and plastic silhouettes representing enemy soldiers.
Working to keep the "enemy" in place during the squad's movements were several crews using M-240B machine guns. Every soldier must know his own role within the squad, as well as the fundamentals of weapons employment and safety.
"It (the exercise) collectively brings marksmanship and the maneuver piece into one training event that utilizes live ammunition, and it is the next best thing to combat. For the individual infantry soldier, it drives home the seriousness of this business. It is also an eye opener and a motivational event for the younger guys," said Corey.
This is particularly important for Charlie Company over the next two years as it prepares to be part of the only National Guard rotation at a major Army training center in 2014. The company will head to the regular Army's Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., next summer as part of the Vermont Army National Guard's 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain).
Designed to closely simulate actual combat conditions, JRTC has a full-time staff that play the role of the "enemy" while evaluating the performance of the visiting unit.
Staff Sgt. Pat Filkins, of New Hampton, was one of nine squad leaders to run his soldiers through the course of fire. A veteran of Charlie's 2010 deployment to Afghanistan, he said, "The best learning you will ever have is combat; live-fire retrains your mind to handle the stresses of real combat."
"The lanes training concentrates on the maneuver piece without the safety concerns that you have in a live-fire scenario."
"There is a lot more to this than I thought; it has definitely made me feel more professional."
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