Mud and guts: Training with trucks in South Korea
ROOSTER 8 TRAINING AREA, South Korea — As the sounds of Apache attack helicopters filled the air above northern Gyeonggi Province’s winter brown mountains, the smell of mud and axle grease filled the nostrils of those on the ground below.
Pilots with the 2nd Infantry Division’s 4th Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment were using their eyes and instruments Wednesday to search for two “enemy” trucks driving around an area of about 2½ miles by 5 miles.
Meanwhile, the soldiers of Company E trudged through their muckier piece of the regiment’s 19-day exercise. A driver intentionally parked a large truck that can carry five tons in about three feet of mud and clay.
Soldiers connected chains and cables to the vehicle, itself weighing 10 tons, and hooked it up to a massive wrecker. But the wrecker couldn’t do it all. Soldiers had to then get on the vehicle’s side and muscle out the truck.
Pfc. Ron Doyle was among the soldiers who got the truck out of the mess, but not without adding a lot of brown to their grayish-green combat uniforms.
“It was pretty wet and messy, but I expected it to be a lot colder,” Doyle said.
Most of the soldiers on hand for the tows were vehicle mechanics, but several aviation soldiers unfamiliar with ground vehicle repair and rescue also were scheduled for the same training.
In today’s combat environment, any soldier could find himself driving through a dangerous area in a convoy, officials said.
The supplies and ammunition that Company E provides also are critical for operations like the ones that 4-2’s pilots now are practicing.
For the first time in at least the past two years, every platoon leader in the unit is being evaluated by an observer controller in the air, said Capt. Andrew Yang, the battalion personnel officer and an Apache pilot.
For many of them, it’s the first time they’ve been given so much responsibility for planning, organizing and executing a mission.
The pilots must search for the “enemy vehicles” that are trying to blend into everyday South Korean traffic.
Although the pilots receive intelligence on what to look for, the trucks can blend in easily in a part of South Korea with lots of Army bases and military-style trucks moving along local roads. The area’s many mountains — along with curveballs thrown in by controllers — make the mission more challenging, pilots said.
“Then there are contingencies you can’t control, like you’re told you’ve lost your communications and you’re not allowed to talk,” said platoon leader 1st Lt. Joy Cousineau.
Apache crews got new missions off the ground quickly Wednesday, challenging the pilots, they said. The fast pace produced lots of sweaty uniforms, but none as grimy as the ones worn by Company E.
Fortunately for the troops on the ground, 1st Sgt. Johnny Castillo had a recipe to get their uniforms as axle grease- and mud-free as those of the fliers.
“Simple Green and a can of Coke, mixed with detergent,” Castillo said. “It works.”