TAEGU, South Korea — As Pfc. Michael Graves began moving through the woods with his machine gun and battle gear, he quickly became sorry.

Graves, an Army MP based at Camp Carroll in Waegwan, South Korea, has been in the Army less than a year, so helicopter insertions, ground assaults and the finer points of battlefield soldiering still are relatively new.

That includes taking pains to avoid noise that can tip the enemy.

As an M249 squad automatic-weapon gunner, he was carrying two hard plastic drums of ammunition, each with 200 rounds.

He had remembered to tie or tape parts of his battle gear so they wouldn’t make noise. But he’d only slung the ammo drums around his neck. And as his squad began moving through woods, he learned a crucial lesson.

“Everything on me was tied down except for the drums of ammo,” said Graves, of the 57th Military Police Company. “That was the only thing that was making noise. It was kind of loud. I realized it myself, and I tried to fix the problem. I moved both drums of ammo to different sides of my body.”

It didn’t work.

“I learned I need to set up my equipment better,” he said.

Graves and other 57th MP Company soldiers were in squad-level training to build their wartime skills. The exercise ran from April 21 through Thursday at a South Korean army live-fire range in Angang, between Taegu and Pohang.

The battle scenario: A CH-47 Chinook helicopter brought MPs to attack an enemy position. They fired live ammunition and called in live mortar rounds for fire support.

And they learned to radio for a medevac helicopter to lift a mock casualty from the field.

“It was the first time I’ve ever been on a Chinook,” Graves said. “Never been lifted straight up off the ground like that before.”

The MPs were drilled in keeping supply routes open in wartime and going after enemy special operations forces aiming to disrupt them.

“As MPs, since we guard our rear areas, it’s our job to search out these people and make sure our rear operations” continue, said 2nd Lt. Anna Feliz, the company’s 3rd Platoon leader.

“The main focus I want my soldiers to get out of this,” said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Doggett, 1st platoon sergeant, “is confidence in themselves, confidence in their equipment and confidence in their leaders. If they get these three things they can be successful.”

“We’re learning a lot of really good squad-functioning skills,” said Pvt. Jona- than Galchik, a gunner in 1st Platoon, including “attention to detail.”

“Every squad leader does things different,” he said, “so if you have a new squad leader you have to learn his hand and arm signals, his way of assaulting the objective, his bounding techniques.”

A live-fire exercise is meant to improve performance of basic combat tasks, said Capt. Jeffrey Lopez, training officer with the 728th Military Police Battalion, the 57th MP Company’s parent unit.

“But an additional focus is to build warrior ethos in our soldiers,” Lopez said, “so the soldiers can build confidence in themselves and their leaders and their equipment. So they can actually go out there and ‘fight tonight.’ ”

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now