Abrams tank commander Sgt. Terry Stenson clears razor wire from a bulldozer blade attached to the front of his tank after clearing a path through a simulated minefield during Iron Steed at Rodriguez Range on Thursday.

Abrams tank commander Sgt. Terry Stenson clears razor wire from a bulldozer blade attached to the front of his tank after clearing a path through a simulated minefield during Iron Steed at Rodriguez Range on Thursday. (Seth Robson / S&S)

RODRIGUEZ RANGE, South Korea — An ongoing, combined arms exercise involving 2,100 soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division will fill a gap between platoon- and battalion-level training, said Col. Anthony Ierardi, the 1st Brigade commander.

Iron Steed, a one-week exercise that ends Wednesday, trains eight company teams, composed of tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, infantry and engineers with support from artillery and chemicals, he said.

The event is modeled on exercises conducted at the National Training Center, Ierardi said, and would “fill a gap in the division’s training.”

“It is combined arms proficiency at a company level. When we start out, we train our crews and squads, then we have platoon training events, and now it is company level,” Ierardi said. “Finally, in February or March, we will train at battalion level” in the exercise known as Iron ARTEP.

“It gives them a chance to see the big picture and how everything works together,” said Capt. Adam Schaffer of 1st Brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company.

Units involved in Iron Steed include 2-72nd Armored Regiment, the 2-9 and 1-9 Infantry battalions, the 2nd Engineer Battalion, the 4th Chemical Company and the 1-15 Artillery Battalion.

Sgt. Jeff Cessna, a section leader with C Company 2-9 Infantry, took his first ride in a Bradley fighting vehicle on Thursday and said it was “surreal.”

“I had only seen Bradleys driving around before, and now, I’m in charge of two of them,” he said. The former light infantryman said he preferred being on the ground but might warm to the Bradleys once he had more experience.

The mission scenario Thursday involved companies practicing attacks using MILES laser gear, breaching an anti-tank ditch and clearing a path through a minefield and four strands of razor wire defended by mechanized infantry and tanks.

The Opposition Force, during the MILES component, featured elements of the 2nd Engineers and 2-9 Infantry.

“Any time you have smoke, a breech, tanks, Bradleys, engineers and infantry doing a combined arms maneuver, it is exciting,” said Command Sgt. Maj. James Daniels as he watched a company rehearse for the MILES attack. “This is what we are going to encounter, and you train to fight.”

Company B commander Capt. Dexter Holley, part of the 2-72nd’s team of 10 tanks and four Bradleys, was optimistic about his chances against the opposition force’s two armored personnel carriers, an anti-tank weapon and a tank in an improved fighting position. “We know we can take ’em,” he said. “Our company has a lot of training in breeches. More times than not, we are the breech company.”

Holley predicted he would lose one or two men to the MILES weapons but that his team would easily defeat the enemy. “It is a prepared defensive position that they have been doing for three days, but they don’t know when we are coming, so we have the element of surprise. We appear on the other side of the smoke and we are organized,” he said.

The next component of the exercise involves a day of attack rehearsals at Rodriguez. Down on the range, Pvt. Alex Karpy of Company C, 1-9 Infantry had made it to a defensive bunker occupying high ground following the breech during a dry run.

“We rode in on the Bradley, and now we’re setting up a defense to deter the enemy,” he said.

Karpy said he was looking forward to the live-fire run, when he hoped to fire all of the 90 rounds he was allocated.

“Live-fire shooting and being an infantryman is the best part of the job. The MILES is good because it helps you out tactically, but I love this because you get to put live rounds down range. There is nothing like it. It is the reason to be in the Army,” he said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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