Drill puts unit's reaction skills to test in Afghanistan
September 11, 2003
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan — Bagram’s Quick Reactionary Force was alerted Wednesday for what turned out to be only an exercise. But these soldiers have learned to take the alerts seriously.
“In the past month, two of the alerts have been exercises, but two have been real,” said Maj. David Rasmussen, executive officer for the 10th Mountain Division’s 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment. “We never know if it’s an exercise or the real thing.”
The first of the real missions included reinforcing a unit in contact with insurgents in the Shahi Kot Valley. But that mission was scrubbed because the unit didn’t need the reinforcements, Rasmussen said.
In the second mission, the QRF provided security for Special Forces troops who were searching a compound. As with most Special Forces missions, no further details could be released, Rasmussen said.
The practice alerts test the force’s reaction time, but that’s not the only training the troops get.
“We’re out here [at the flight line] training all day,” said Pfc. Bryant Ellis, from Company A’s “green” platoon.
The green platoon soldiers live in huts on the flight line and must be ready to go in 15 minutes. A second platoon, “amber,” lives in the infantry tents and has an additional 15 minutes to get to the flight line with all gear. “This is our job 24/7; we’re always training for it.”
Ellis said he was psyched for the Special Forces mission.
“It was a great learning experience,” he said. “Everything we’ve been taught in training came into play.”
The QRF element that goes out on a mission includes one or two Chinook helicopters, depending on how many platoons are needed; a Black Hawk carrying the command and control element; and Apache helicopters to provide mission security, Rasmussen said.
Each of the battalion’s companies has QRF duty for a month, and the company commanders usually rotate their platoons through the duty, Rasmussen said.
A platoon undergoes a week or more of training and must be certified by the company commander before it can assume the quick reactionary force duties, he added.
While “duty” implies something soldiers may be reluctant to perform, Ellis said he welcomes the challenge.
“It’s a good thing, being down here on the quick reactionary force all the time,” he said. “Other missions can get pretty boring, but this keeps us on our toes.”