Learning to lead soldiers into war
Pacific edition, Friday, September 28, 2007
CAMP CASEY, South Korea — The first sniper shot came from about 100 meters into the forest.
The exercise controller called the first casualty for a squad of 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry, 2nd Infantry Division soldiers — wounds to the left shoulder and leg.
The troops knew there would be a casualty, just as there was during training on Tuesday, when they eventually took out the opposing forces by using a single-line formation.
On Wednesday, the squad took out its targets much quicker. Two soldiers ran up the left flank, while two others took the right flank.
In minutes, Spc. Kristopher Abrams of Demon Company had his sniper.
“I got that son-of-a-gun good,” Abrams said. “I was about two meters away. He didn’t even hear me until I said, ‘Hey, you’re dead.’ ”
Within two minutes of taking out the sniper, the flanking maneuver flushed out another “enemy insurgent” toward the center, where he surrounded.
“He panicked exactly where we wanted. Good times, good times,” said Spc. Picasso Mickens, with Charlie Company.
Seven squads of 2nd Battalion, all specialists or junior noncommissioned officers, ran through seven lanes of exercises designed to help them lead soldiers in guerrilla and urban warfare Tuesday and Wednesday.
The lanes were the culmination of training a week before that took them from the classroom to the range, day and night — preparing them with tactics meant both for the Korean peninsula and today’s combat zones, said the battalion’s Command Sgt. Maj. Bobby Gallardo.
Potential conflict in Korea traditionally has been viewed as a high-intensity matchup of big guns and bombs. But if a “steel-on-steel” battle ever erupted, it would transition into urban warfare, just as the world wars and Korean War eventually did, Gallardo said.
Meanwhile, a soldier who leaves South Korea may arrive at a unit that deploys to Iraq or Afghanistan right away — meaning the soldier won’t have time to train with a new unit before experiencing war.
“I don’t want to lose focus on reality,” Gallardo said. “Sooner or later, we’re going to be sending these soldiers back to the rest of the Army.”
Beginning Sept. 17, the battalion’s junior leaders learned the full spectrum of leading junior enlisted soldiers.
They spent their first days in classes, learning from experts how to guide younger soldiers through the Army’s bureaucracy, including topics like how to process a promotion, how to sign on for another year in South Korea and how to gauge suicide risk.
Then they moved on to maintenance, quick-strike combat and three days of morning and night weapons firing.
Gallardo, an Army Ranger with multiple Iraq tours under his belt, showed the soldiers some unconventional firing techniques, including shooting in awkward positions and with the opposite hand.
The last two days included detainee operations, bomb searches, taking fire and searching an area with a downed friendly aircraft.
“We got something out of this every day,” said Sgt. Justin Sims, with Demon Company. “Each day, I got at least one thing that was something new.”