551st integrates Warrior Ethos tasks in local FTX

551st integrates Warrior Ethos tasks in local FTX

Tausha Smith

The firing had been intense in the first room. The smoke cleared and it was time to move on.

The Soldiers steadied themselves. They nodded to each other and then burst through the doorway of what they believed was the final room in the building.

Each Soldier had a sector of fire and checked their areas. The room was clear. Suddenly, a figure on a chair came into view. The person was gagged and bound, unable to do anything but grunt and look into the eyes of his new-found liberators.

The Soldiers got their platoon sergeant who realized this was the United Nations aide worker they’d been told was potentially being held by insurgents in the area. The aide worker had been snatched from an ambushed convoy three days ago.

This guy’s ordeal was finally over. He’d be checked out by the medics and sent back to the battalion out of danger. Now that the building was secure, the Soldiers could begin what they came there to do . install the communications for the command. They had just over two hours to get things operational.

First, email in two hours … they’d have to push it, but they could do it. Hauling transit cases of equipment up the stairs and began breaking it out …

While that scene could be taking place anywhere in the Central Command area of responsibility, these days similar scenes are taking place at Fort Gordon.

Soldiers of the 551st Signal Battalion, training to become 25B automators, execute this scenario during their Warrior Ethos Lane Training as part of Training and Doctrine Command’s initiative to build both combat skills and technical military occupational specialty skills into a realistic training event during advanced individual training.

This is an exciting change for AIT students of the 551st. The battalion began integrating Warrior Ethos tasks and drills into the training schedule for AIT students in October 2004. This training now culminates in a monthly Field Training Exercise executed at battalion level. Given our Army’s operations tempo, the 15th Regimental Signal Brigade has added both technical and combat-related skills, ensuring Soldiers arrive at their next assignment combat trained and ready for deployment within 30 days.

The 551st Signal Battalion always graduated young Soldiers knowledgeable in their MOS specific skills, however, the lesson’s learned from veterans of both Afghanistan and Iraq are reinforcing the need to train Soldiers in basic combat skills. The training focus has shifted from primarily MOS technical training to a mix of both technical and tactical; new trainees are taught that they are warriors first and technicians second.

Young Soldiers are now training to an approved Training and Doctrine Command standard for all the warrior tasks and drills, which include: correcting malfunctions with assigned weapon, employing mines and hand grenades, performing voice communications, using visual signaling techniques, entering and clearing a building during an urban operation, land navigation/ movement from one point to another dismounted, evaluating and treating a casualty, and selecting temporary fighting positions.

In February 2005, 551st began integrating 25B MOS specific skills into the field training exercises and is progressing to integrate more MOS related challenges into training over successive exercises.

During the February 2005 FTX, soldiers were given the mission to install, operate, and maintain six computers in a local area network within a simulated combat environment. The objective was to fully network the systems and be able to send emails from one computer to the next within two hours.

The Soldiers had experience doing this in a classroom environment and felt they could achieve the task in about 30 minutes. However, anyone with any field experience knows, what can go wrong usually will.

This caught our young Soldiers by surprise, once out of the sterile classroom environment. With their adrenaline still pumping after having cleared and secured a building, it was time to set up the computers. Quickly the realization that they were “no longer in Kansas” set in.

As the clock ticked, Soldiers encountered bad cables, generator problems and configuration changes they had to adapt to quickly. While all of this was going on, the most technically knowledgeable in the group were being tasked to pull guard on the perimeter, rather than working on the computers. This ensured every Soldier knowing how to perform without depending on stronger group members. Instead of the 30 minutes our Soldiers thought it would take, they completed the task in one hour and 20 minutes–still under the two-hour window. Overall, it was incredible training for them throughout their careers.

To make the FTX more realistic, the 551st is using role players in authentic Afghan/ Iraqi clothing to simulate non-English speaking civilians and potential combatants on the battlefield. This places Soldiers in situations where the first response may not always be to open fire. This touch of realism was invaluable to the overall success and feel of the FTX.

Every month, the battalion adds realism, complexity, and rigor to the Warrior Ethos FTX.

Overall, the successes the Soldiers have enjoyed as a result of these FTXs have been due to two distinct communities of excellence. The first is the combat veterans returning as both cadre and within the school as students themselves. The other community of excellence encompasses the Signal Center and garrison agencies who provided resources so the training gets increasingly realistic and relevant. Together the 551st Signal Patriots develop Soldiers who are ready to make an immediate contribution at their first unit assignment.

ACRONYM QUICKSCAN

AIT–Advanced Individual Training

AOR–Area of Responsibility

CENTCOM–Central Command

FTX–Field Training Exercise

LAN–Local Area Network

MOS–military occupational specialty

OPTEMPO–operations tempo

TRADOC–Training and Doctrine Command

CPT Smith, a graduate of West Point Class of 1996, was the commander of D Co, 551st Signal Battalion from June 26, 2004, until Feb. 4, 2005. Before that she spent 13 months in Kuwait deployed with 3rd U.S. Army G4. She is currently working in the 551st Signal Battalion S3.

COPYRIGHT 2005 U.S. Army Signal Center

COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group