Fort Carson soldiers learn old skills for new wars
The Gazette, Colorado Springs, Colo.
A simple dust cloud betrayed the enemy’s advance.
Perched high in the sky, a Shadow drone spotted the movement on a Fort Carson training range. Apache helicopters circled overhead, scanning for more enemy forces while soldiers with the 7th Squadron of the 10th Cavalry Regiment watched a meadow draped in dusk.
A blast from a 25 mm gun signaled the squadron’s response.
After years of fighting in the tense streets of Baghdad and the rugged mountains and fertile river valleys of Afghanistan, the Army is preparing for a future that now looks a lot like the distant past.
A Saturday night training exercise on the south side of the post revealed the complexities of re-learning how to fight a more traditional war with tanks, artillery and Bradley fighting vehicles rigs hardly used in counterinsurgency.
Military planners fear future wars will require the big guns.
“It’s almost as if we’re trying to change our soldiers’ minds one at a time,” said Col. Joel Tyler, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the post’s 4th Infantry Division.
The brigade is learning to do it all as a hybrid force, one equally equipped to fight against insurgents as well as formidable armies featuring tanks and sophisticated battle strategies.
M-1 Abrams tanks, 72-tons of firepower, once again roar down dusty two-tracks on hills overlooking Pueblo West. AH-64 Apache helicopters from Fort Bliss, Texas, fire rockets into the ground near a makeshift village where insurgents pop out of second-story windows.
For locals, this may bring noise they haven’t heard in years. After the invasion of Iraq, Fort Carson units focused on a quieter foot-driven brand of training to ready them to take on insurgents. By 2014, that kind of fighting will be near an end. The last U.S. troops left Iraq at the end of 2011. Thousands of troops are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by the end of the summer, with most gone in about a year and a half.
In the wake of that change, the Army is training to become a far more versatile force.
On Saturday night, soldiers spent hours spotting plywood targets shaped like trucks and tanks that sprang up from behind berms at a lieutenant colonel’s command.
Artillery opened the fight with parachute flares in the darkening sky.
“Often times, when illumination rounds fire, you (the enemy) automatically hide because you know you’re being watched,” said Lt. Col. Geoffrey Norman, the squadron’s commander.
Lessons were learned, such as when air support went after a different target than Norman anticipated.
But as about a dozen enemy forces popped up in the heat-sensitive sights of a troop of Bradleys and tanks, Fort Carson soldiers delivered a powerful salvo.
“This is kind of a complicated dance,” Norman said.