Grafenwöhr training focuses on surviving first contact
April 2, 2008
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Learning how to survive the enemy’s first strike in Iraq will be a training priority for 172nd Infantry Brigade soldiers this year, according to the unit’s commander, Col. Jeff Sinclair.
Officers and senior enlisted soldiers from the brigade toured Grafenwöhr Training Area with Sinclair on Tuesday. About 1,500 soldiers from the brigade will move from Schweinfurt to Grafenwöhr over the next few months, with the rest of the unit due to join them in 2009.
The range tour was a chance for Sinclair to expound his training philosophy to the leaders, who must have their soldiers ready to deploy to a war zone by the end of October.
“As leaders we often make the mistake of operating at a level that is none of our business. I could write books about why we are in Iraq … We can waste our time watching CNN … but we have only a short amount of time … Our job is to play a position in a team and take a brigade to Iraq. If we focus on basic fundamentals we will probably get to where we need to go,” he said, adding that, although the 172nd has no orders to deploy, its most likely mission would be in Iraq.
Sinclair stressed the importance of leadership, lifesaving, small unit drills, communication and physical fitness.
Leaders should focus urban combat training on its most dangerous aspect — movement within or from building to building, he said.
But units are less likely to sustain casualties during offensive operations and the enemy is most lethal during surprise attacks, he said.
“We have to train our force to survive first contact. You must give them the best opportunity to survive the first hit,” he said.
For example, all the soldiers need to wear eye protection and know how to use anti-fogging gear (for eye protection) during training, he said.
Leaders should be optimistic about training, Sinclair added.
“Your job is not to bitch. When you are a private, your job is to say: ‘My boots are too tight.’ When you are a leader you lose that right. Come out and find out what tools are available and get to it,” he said.
The range tour was designed to get the brigade leaders on the same page before they start training the unit, he said, adding that 70 percent of the leaders are combat veterans.
One of the leaders touring the ranges, 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment operations officer Maj. Chris Matherne, said Grafenwöhr is an ideal training site for an artillery unit but he expects his unit to train for a full spectrum of operations.
On its last Iraq mission, from July 2006 to October 2007, 1-77 soldiers worked as artillerymen, but also guarded a base, patrolled and cleared routes, he said.
Sinclair gave the leaders a clear indication of what he wanted from their training plans, Matherne said, as he stood looking at hundreds of pop-up targets in the training area.
“Probably the most important piece of this range (Range 201) is those four or five wooden buildings by the side of the road,” he said.
Soldiers must learn to drive past a danger area and how to react if the enemy attacks them there, he said.