In mock attack, soldiers learn that war blends waiting, fighting
May 14, 2006
YONCHEON, South Korea — Waiting and boredom sometimes are as much a part of war as guns and ammunition.
By Thursday, some 150 soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 38th Field Artillery had waited a long time at their field positions in remote parts of Area I. They had worked in 12-hour shifts, while some officers said they had been awake for almost 36 hours.
Only the brigade staff knew when the war simulation would begin.
At 5 p.m. Thursday, evaluators signaled an incoming mortar round at Charlie Battery’s tactical operation center. Four soldiers fell wounded while their fellow soldiers grabbed their weapons and ran to their duty station.
Meanwhile, reports came over the radio of enemy special forces teams attacking nearby missile sites.
“In training you know what to expect but this environment is different,” said combat medic Spc. Chad Parrish. “But it gives me an opportunity to show my skills.”
Parrish examined two soldiers who were labeled killed in action, then attended to a soldier with a chest wound. Then the exercise took on added authenticity for him: After he dressed the wound, he was instructed to insert a real needle attached to an IV bag into the “wounded” soldier’s arm.
Parrish was the only medic assigned to dozens of soldiers at the Charlie battery tactical operations center site; soldiers with combat lifesaver training helped tend casualties while other soldiers circled the bushy perimeter and guarded the gate.
Sgt. Ryan Hayes said the attack surprised him only in that he expected worse, including a ground-troop assault. With two days of fighting left, there still was a good chance he would see the opposing force, which roamed the mountainside wearing inside-out battle dress uniforms.
The soldiers “still have to stay calm and know exactly what to do,” Hayes said. “So when the real thing happens, hopefully they’ll be prepared.”
To lend authenticity to the war simulation, the 43rd Air Defense Artillery also took part in the exercise.
At the exercise’s conclusion, the 1-38 soldiers will be evaluated according to their specialties and individual performance. To earn top marks, the soldiers not only must react quickly during firefights but must communicate well with headquarters and integrate new soldiers into their unit as the situations change.
Despite the long period in which soldiers could only wait, Charlie battery’s soldiers reacted quickly to the opening skirmish on Thursday, said 2nd Lt. Scott Dickson.
“Considering they only get one exercise like this a year, these guys did a bang-up job,” he said.