Sunday, July 26, 2009

"I'm Not Lost, I'm at Fort Sill"

LTs after ARM. FOB Kelly is in the background. Photo by author.
After a particularly rough Sunday evening it was time to say goodbye to the barracks on Fort Sill for a week and head out to FOB (Forward Operating Base) Kelly located in the training areas surrounding the main post. With bags packed, we headed out on trucks to the FOB and stowed our gear in the bays we would be living with. In trying to make training as realistic and relevant as possible, Fort Sill constructed FOB Kelly to look and work like a FOB in Iraq complete with high walls, traffic control points, guard towers and even a gym and fully functioning bathrooms with showers. Once our gear was put away we walked out to the range located across the street in our full "battle rattle" to include IBA and helmets. Once at the range we began ARM (Advanced Rifle Marksmanship) which consisted of reflexive fire. Reflexive fire is used in close combat situations from 25 meters and closer. This type of shooting is used when clearing rooms, which would be taught later in the week. The standard to pass was 16/20 rounds inside a target the size of a bowling pin. Each time we shot we fired controlled pairs meaning we put two rounds into the target every time we engaged. Each pair was fired from different positions and situations such as from a knee, turning left or right, walking to the target and having to spin around and acquire a target behind you. I put 18/20 rounds in the target before heading back to the platoons staging area for the walk back to the FOB.
Lts hang in the bays at FOB Kelly. Photo by author.
Tuesday began instruction on land navigation. We started with the basics of plotting points on a map, using a compass and how to terrain associate prior to doing a practice run where we navigated in teams of two to four different points. The true test though was Wednesday where we have to navigate both during day and night on a more challenging course.
Wednesday began early at 0200 (2 AM) where we got on trucks and headed out to the land nav course. The course we were going to be on was a Star Course meaning that instead of getting all our points in the beginning we were only given two: Our current location and our first point to navigate to. We had 5 hours to navigate to all the points we had on our specific lane. Each lane differed in points, some having 4 and some having as many as 8. Once you arrive at a point the next grid location you needed to move to would be located on the sign marking the point you just found. You then had to plot your next point right there and move out. I began at 0430 with no moonlight to help me out. After stumbling through the woods for about a kilometer up and over a large hill I checked the map and figured I should be right where I needed to be but could not find the sign marking my point. Figuring I had more distance to go, I continued walking not trusting my gut instinct that said the point was right where I was. As I went up another hill I started to get a sinking feeling that I was in fact lost in the middle of the night. Instead of freaking out and running all over I calmed myself down by thinking of a scene in Band of Brothers when, after dropping into France during the D-Day invasion, a private asks an officer if they were lost. The officer replies, not really knowing where they were either, "We're not lost Private,we're in Normandy." Substituting Fort Sill for Normandy I gave myself a chuckle and sat down on the side of the hill and whipped out my map again. Sunlight was finally breaking through the black sky and I had enough light to better make out the terrain features surrounding me and was able to compare them to the map I had. Realizing that I did in fact go to far I backtracked my steps and found my point which was no more than 10 feet away from the place I was standing where I thought the point should have been. After whispering a "D'oh!" to myself I plotted my next point and moved out at a near run. It was now 0630 and I had only found one point out of a possible eight and only had three more hours to find them. The rest of the course was a breeze and I finished after finding all seven of my points with about 90 minutes to spare.
Thursday was an introduction to Urban Operations (UO) and included training on how to enter and clear a room. We did more UO on Friday, but this time used SIMUNITIONS, which are paint rounds that show if you got shot while clearing a room. I got tasked to play the Opposing Force (OPFOR) meaning I would face off against all four squads in the platoon. I got shot up pretty well with paint but it was the most fun I had training so far at Fort Sill. We headed back in and returned back to the barracks where we cleaned weapons. At the end of the work day I was informed I would be in a leadership position again, this time not at as squad leader but rather as the PL for 1st Platoon. Of course steak Friday was on tap that evening and I was glad to be able to bring two of my best friends from the USMA with me since they just arrived at Fort Sill and will be starting BOLC II next week.
Saturday, we headed out to OK City for some minor league baseball and bar hopping. The game was awesome and we got tickets in the all you can eat section of the ballpark. After a few beverages, six hotdogs, and nine innings we were ready to hit up the town. We returned this morning where I got my final orders for Fort Bragg. I have been assigned to the 2nd BDE of the 82nd Airborne. The 325 AIR (Airborne Infantry Regiment) has fought since World War I and is known as the Falcons. Pretty exciting. This coming week includes medical training, convoy training, and two days of hand to hand combat training. Should have some interesting stuff to write about next week. Until then, ATW!

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