The Bayonet

Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012

IBOLC integrates Strykers in training

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Two tanks with eight Armor Soldiers, two Strykers with two crewmen and 44 Infantrymen in a rifle platoon — it’s a combined arms equation that could play out in theater any day. Last week, it was a full-scale training operation led by Infantry students training to become Infantry leaders.

Capt. James Gallagher, company commander for A Company, 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment, said it was the first time Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicles were fully integrated into an Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course field exercise.

“This training tests our lieutenants’ agility and adaptability as leaders,” he said. “So far during this course, IBOLC cadre have trained them to operate as platoons consisting of three rifle squads and a weapons squad: a typical rifle platoon task organization. With the added firepower and maneuverability of tanks and Strykers, the lieutenants’ ability to execute mission command on outside elements and work with adjacent units is put to the test — providing lessons learned they can take with them to their follow-on units.”

The training started Nov. 13 at Selby Combined Arms Collective Training Facility and continued through Friday. 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, assisted in planning and execution, supplying personnel and equipment to carry out the platoon-level attack.

“We’ve spent the past four months working together to get this training ready for our students,” Gallagher said, “and I cannot thank them enough for their outstanding teamwork and cooperation. Their cadre has provided great advice on the equipment they bring to the fight. Our students — and their future Soldiers — will benefit greatly from it.”

The commander said during the past several years, leadership has recognized how essential it is to make Infantry lieutenants ready “to plan, prepare, coordinate and then take charge of the multitude of battlefield maneuver assets and enablers available to them on the modern battlefield.” A company includes more than 170 Soldiers who — with the right training — will be a valuable addition to the ground forces they will join.

“This training ties right in with the purpose of the MCoE,” Gallagher said. “The Armor branch, Stryker Infantry units, and light Infantry are all part of the combined arms team. If we get it right in training, we will get it right in combat. Never before have our leaders, NCOs and officers had so many assets at their disposal to both safeguard our Soldiers and to bear against the enemy. And the need to train on the integration of both Armored and Infantry combined arms assets (is) so pertinent at the earliest opportunities.”

The 11th week of IBOLC is an early opportunity to let students see the combined arms team in action and have a hand in executing a complex mission. The urban scenario included clearing seven buildings: five with an enemy combatant and two to establish a local support-by-fire position and gain security to isolate their objective.

2nd Lt. Jason Stisser acted as the platoon leader Wednesday for 4th Platoon’s first run-through of the mission.

“It’s our first platoon situational training exercise in urban terrain,” he said. “In training, we always practice integrating combined arms. We always say we’re calling for fire; we’re bringing in helicopters. But to have physical assets of different combined arms elements supporting our operation on the station, to be able to actually communicate with them … it’s pretty good. It’s the best training I’ve done yet.”

4th Platoon’s first mission ended with two casualties, one wounded and one unarmed person captured in hostile territory. The Soldiers conducted a medevac with one of the Stryker vehicles.

“Talking to all the parts and keeping the whole big picture moving is the hardest part,” Stisser said. “In reality, I’ll be thinking about this until I’m retired from the Army probably — about how I could’ve done it differently.

“They told us when we came here that their goal is to make us adaptive and agile leaders, but it’s different witnessing it. I could think of a million different ways I probably should’ve done this differently, but the fact is they gave us the tools to make decisions and then they put us in an environment where we had to make the decisions. And there’s no other way to be more prepared for what we’re going to do.”

After graduation on Dec. 13, Stisser will PCS to Germany where he will likely serve as a platoon leader. He said his time in IBOLC has given him a taste of what’s in store.

“The most impressive part for me as a student here is just the amount of resources we’ve had to be able to make as realistic training as possible,” he said. “It’s one thing to do an assault on a shack in the woods. It’s something totally different to do an assault on solid buildings with doors and windows, pyrotechnics, tanks, Strykers, a whole platoon of guys. This is what I want to do for a living.

“It is humbling to think that at some point it’s not going to be me leading 43 of my peers on a fake objective. It’s going to be me leading 40 Infantrymen who have lives and Families and there’s real bullets. To think that this is going to happen for real with actual Soldiers following me — it’s humbling, but it’s also reassuring to know it can work. We know that these things do work.”

The Infantry battalion has been increasingly integrating combined arms elements into its training over the past year. Tanks, rotary wing aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles are just a few of the assets lieutenants have coordinated with. This is the first time students have dismounted from a Stryker during a real-world field exercise.

“We just couldn’t pass up this training opportunity to get Strykers into our course,” Gallagher said. “Many of our students are headed to Stryker units and combined arms battalions after their training here at the MCoE is complete, and this event will greatly enhance their ability to lead their future Soldiers and be a part of the combined arms team. This training, first and foremost, reinforces the need to conduct detailed planning and rehearsals. The lieutenants were challenged with working alongside both Armor and Stryker units and were expected to plan and rehearse to standard, using the troop-leading procedures process, the combined arms rehearsal process and — most importantly — teamwork to accomplish the mission.”

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