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CAMP SMITH, N.Y. Combining steep learning curves with Camp Smiths steep terrain, Soldiers of the New York Army National Guards 2nd Battalion, 106th Regional Training Institute, turn Army Reserve and National Guard clerks, quartermasters and mechanics into Infantrymen.
Institute instructors completed their annual Infantryman Transition Course Aug. 10, graduating 19 Soldiers who came from as far away as Guam, into fully qualified Infantryman. The course is open to Soldiers from all Army components, and passing the course enables troops from other Army career backgrounds to complete their transition to Infantry units.
By qualifying Infantryman at Camp Smith, the New York Army National Guard saved travel funds, said Lt. Col. Chris Ciccone, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 106th Regional Training Institute, or RTI.
To earn the blue Infantry cord, the students went through two weeks of classroom, weapons and field training. The training was capped with a three-day field-training exercise, where students put the mountain of Infantry knowledge theyd learned to work in the mountainous terrain of Camp Smith.
Coming to this course, I told them, day one, its not going to be easy, said Sgt. 1st Class Shaun Butcher, the course manager, who is from Wallkill, N.Y. Its going to challenge you physically. Its going to challenge you mentally, and its going to challenge every bit of your will.
Being an Infantry Soldier is the best job in the Army, said course instructor Staff Sgt. Michael Martin, of Cobleskill, N.Y. Infantry Soldiers do more, and carry more, through challenging terrain, using their boots as their main mode of transportation, he said.
The bar is set high, he said. It is high for a reason. You rely on the guy next to you. Theres no bus picking you up and bringing you to chow. Chow is in your rucksack. Thats your apartment. Everything you live on is in that bag.
The Armys Infantry School at Fort Benning sets the bar high for the instructors. In addition to being Infantry qualified, institute instructors have to pass several courses and be board-certified by the Infantry School, Butcher said.
Every instructor that comes here has relevant experience, either in Afghanistan or Iraq, and they have squad leader and team leader experience that they can bring to the table and teach people, Butcher said.
From concealed positions among the trees and boulders, mock enemy combatants, played by other institute instructors, fired at the approaching students, testing infantry skills such as engaging targets, moving as teams and squads and seizing objectives.
This is pretty rough, a lot more rockier than what Im used to, said student Spc. Robert Goss, of A Company, 2nd Battalion, 112th Infantry, Pennsylvania Army National Guard. Its pretty steep.
The instructors didnt let up either. They gave gentle critiques, shouted corrections, and occasionally threatened to make the students repeat missions if they didnt perform them to standard.
At one point Martin called out a student because he wasnt lying in the proper prone position.
Its called discipline, gentlemen, Martin said as the student corrected himself. Itll keep you alive. Its doing the right thing when no ones around.