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Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division's C Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment march up a creekbed during training at Blackhawk Range this week.
Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division's C Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment march up a creekbed during training at Blackhawk Range this week. (Seth Robson / S&S)
Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division's C Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment march up a creekbed during training at Blackhawk Range this week.
Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division's C Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment march up a creekbed during training at Blackhawk Range this week. (Seth Robson / S&S)
A soldier from the 2nd Infantry Division's C Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment reacts to contact with the enemy during training at Blackhawk Range this week.
A soldier from the 2nd Infantry Division's C Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment reacts to contact with the enemy during training at Blackhawk Range this week. (Seth Robson / S&S)
Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division's C Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment clamber out of a creekbed during training at Blackhawk Range this week.
Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division's C Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment clamber out of a creekbed during training at Blackhawk Range this week. (Seth Robson / S&S)
A soldier from the 2nd Infantry Division's C Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment marches up a creekbed during training at Blackhawk Range this week.
A soldier from the 2nd Infantry Division's C Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment marches up a creekbed during training at Blackhawk Range this week. (Seth Robson / S&S)

BLACKHAWK RANGE, South Korea — Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division’s C Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment are bruised and tired after more than a week of live-and blank-fire training in Area I.

The team and squad level exercises teach soldiers how to react to enemy contact, then attack and defeat a small opposing force.

The 1-503rd soldiers, who specialize in air assaults from Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters, completed team-based blank- and live-fire versions of the training here earlier this week and moved up to squad-level drills on Thursday and Friday.

On Thursday, nine soldiers — C Company’s 3rd Squad, 1st Platoon — moved cautiously up a creek bed at the range, waiting to make contact with an opposition force consisting of six enemy soldiers guarding a bunker complex protected by a wire obstacle.

When the attack came, the lead soldiers threw themselves onto the rocky ground in the creek bed and returned fire with blanks and training lasers mounted on their weapons. Squad and team leaders barked orders as other soldiers brought up M-249 and M-240B machine guns to set up support-by-fire positions behind berms above the creek.

Soon, their comrades “bounded” past them in an attack designed to kill the enemy and capture the bunker complex.

However, the attack went badly. Before the squad breached the wire, Capt. Christian Lewis, C Company’s commander, called a halt, provoking harsh words among the disappointed troops.

“Cut out all this bitching and griping at each other,” he told the soldiers. “There are some basic things we need to look at. That is why I stopped you guys.”

The first mistake made by 3rd Squad was reacting too slowly to the contact.

“The enemy is trying to kill you. There is no dilly-dallying and horsing around,” he added.

Lulls in fire from the squad were another mistake. “There were lots of lulls. Lulls in fire don’t do anything for you. It gives the enemy time to maneuver to kill you. Once this thing starts, you go,” Lewis said.

Soldiers should have aimed their weapons instead of wasting ammunition firing erratically, he said. “When you got up here, a lot of you were running out of ammo. You were firing your saw (M-249 rifle) right into the side of the hill,” he told one soldier.

Two soldiers were chastised for bounding without support fire. Several others were guilty of exposing themselves to enemy fire unnecessarily.

“You expose yourself walking on the high ground. Use what cover you have. Find some cover or else you are just a sitting duck,” Lewis said.

Practicing reacting to contact — one of the infantry’s mainstays — is important for soldiers, he said. “It gets team and squad leaders doing what they are going to be doing no matter what the terrain or the situation.”

Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are doing exactly the same sort of thing, he added: “They are still conducting attacks because they are being ambushed and reacting to contact.”

Pvt. David Young, of Hawaii, wielded an M-240B machine gun at a support-by-fire position during the training. He was not surprised the attack failed and not confident his squad would get it right on their next try. “This is the third time we have done this. It shouldn’t be that hard if you do the drill that we keep doing over and over again,” he said.

Pfc. Anthony Hempel of Houston, got his first taste of reacting to contact during the training. The young soldier, who joined the Army last year and completed basic training in October, said it’s exhausting. “You get winded. It is probably harder than a game of football. I have got bruises everywhere. It is tough getting up each morning,” he said, “but it is part of the job.”

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