2nd ID soldiers’ decision-making is tested in live-fire drill
RODRIGUEZ RANGE, South Korea — As two soldiers rushed their “wounded” comrade to safety after raiding the enemy, a South Korean photographer jumped into the fray to capture the images.
The photographer merely was doing his job, having been invited to an eight-hour live-fire exercise at Rodriguez Range on Tuesday held by 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.
The soldiers also were merely doing their job when they stuck their hands in front of his camera lens and shouted, “No pictures! No pictures!”
The soldiers were told to treat the exercise as realistically as possible, and they did — meaning no pictures of wounded troops.
It was an unexpected but useful twist to a two-operation exercise designed to test junior officers’ decision-making skills, said 2-9 commander Lt. Col. Ryan Kuhn.
“In the real world, the element of the press is something a platoon leader will have to deal with,” he said.
The exercise included infantry and engineer squads plus a fire support element. Tanks and four Bradley fighting vehicles also were involved, officials said.
The fireworks began when soldiers rushed out of their vehicle and crouched against a building perimeter, where intelligence reports said the enemy was hidden.
On the snowy mountain ridge well above them, a scout located and killed an enemy sniper.
On the ground, soldiers aimed their rifles at adjacent buildings and rooftops, watching for anything suspicious.
In a cloud of green smoke, others blew open the wooden front door and stormed the building. They evacuated the civilians, along with an armed enemy, who lay motionless on the ground.
Left for dead, he moved and pulled the pin from a grenade, next to several soldiers and a vehicle. A soldier quickly threw the enemy’s body on top of the grenade to absorb the imagined blast.
The platoon leader’s ability to complete the activity without harming civilians is key to fulfilling the exercise’s goals in the real world, Kuhn said.
“They will capture the bad guy and immediately leave,” Kuhn said. “They must not disrupt the flow of commerce, or anything else going on in town.”
Operations head Capt. Kevin Cummiskey managed the civilians in the exercise, appointing a mayor, police chief and others for the fictional town. Gaining the confidence of civilian leaders is crucial during real-world operations, he said.
“If they don’t like what friendly forces are doing, they will react to that,” Cummiskey said.
During the second part of the exercise, an enemy unit was ordered to exploit a seam in the Army’s lines. Although the platoon leader had significant intelligence on the enemy’s whereabouts, timing can make or break a successful outcome, Kuhn said.
“It’s complex decision making,” Kuhn said. “If he reacts too fast, he is not protecting his force.”
But reacting too slowly could give the enemy a chance to exploit the seam, he said.
“These are real reactions and every time we do it, we learn something,” Kuhn said.