Story and photos by Devin Fisher
Field training plays an important role in preparing military units for deployments. But, few training exercises may be more vital than the month-long training the 984th Military Police Company, 759th MP Battalion, completed April 9 at Camp Red Devil.
The 984th was planning for an August deployment to Iraq, but were notified in mid-January that its orders were changed. Not only is the unit now going to Afghanistan, but also the deployment begins in May.
Then there is the fact that only 10 percent of the unit has ever deployed, and one-fourth of the unit’s 200 Soldiers are fresh out of advanced individual training.
The primary goal of the training was simply “getting those guys (the new Soldiers) trained and integrated into their platoons” and “just getting them combat ready,” said Capt.
Eddie Jones, 984th commander.
He said the 984th would not be able to accomplish its upcoming mission without the training at Camp Red Devil March 9-April 9. He explained his unit was able to train on every aspect of security they will provide in theater. This includes training local national police mentorship training, getting Soldiers used to working through an interpreter, and conducting dismounted patrols.
“From when we heard (we were going to Afghanistan, not Iraq) to now we’ve seen an extreme amount of growth from (our) Soldiers, sergeants and operations (officers),” he said. “Every part of the company has grown in the last four weeks out here … we’ve gotten better and better every day.”
About 20 miles from the Fort Carson main post – a 30-minute ride by Humvee, the MPs converted the village’s embassy into a secure contingency operations base surrounded by mountains, providing a training environment similar to what they will experience when deployed more than 7,000-miles away.
“We have some Soldiers who have been to Afghanistan and they say this as close as we can get to Afghanistan,” Jones said. “There are some great trails back here that go up the mountains (that have) been kicking our butts because we are so used to being in trucks. It’s been a big change for us, but they (the Soldiers) are adjusting well.”
An influx of Soldiers, to include 35 in one week, “is a good thing because it means we are getting healthy,” said 1st Sgt. Eugene Marchand. He noted the normal cycle for an MP company is to lose Soldiers to permanent-change-of-station moves and separations 90 days after returning from a deployment and then all the Soldiers new to the battalion are assigned to the next unit deploying.
He said the company was successful in transforming the unit into an effective, cohesive team.
“We have to push these kids in all the different weather, terrain and environment – the whole picture – as much as we can in the shortest amount of time that we can,” he said.
“I have watched these kids grow – knowledge and experience – leaps and bounds.”
Marchand recalled observing the actions of a squad pulling security late one night.
While receiving fire, he said, a private was calling out “we are receiving fire, this direction” to his squad leader on the other side.
“This is something this private probably wouldn’t have been able to do three weeks ago,” he said, noting they only receive the basics in AIT.
It is the job of the noncommissioned officers to get the Soldiers ready for combat, he said.Soldiers being prepared for combat “depicts how good a leader you are,” said Staff Sgt. Brad Godsey, a squad leader.
“No matter the timeframe, you still got to get the Soldiers ready,” he said.
He said leadership organized a good training regimen “keeping us moving, keeping us on our feet.” Godsey said having the Soldiers involved in both aspects of the training, running missions and serving as opposition forces, was beneficial. “We can see both sides, think how they think and work as they work …”
Gunner Pvt. Johnathon Rogers, who arrived here Jan. 22, described the field training as a “totally different” scale compared to AIT, where “they try to get you through everything so fast.”
He said, “Until you go through the situation in some type of form you’re not going to know (what to expect). You can read books … all day, but until you actually go through the experience, you don’t know what everybody is going to do. Now, from experience, I know what my team leader and my driver are going to do in a situation; how fast they think (and) what’s going through their heads compared to just jumping into a vehicle and having to kind of look at them and see what they are going to do.”
Pfc. Daniel McCloud, driver, agrees.
“Just being in the field environment for the four weeks kind of gives you the 24-hour day in, day out of what it’s going to be like,” he said. “Being together with your squad 24 hours a day brings you tighter … you get to know each other better.”
The evolution of the training, from “crawl all the way to run,” was evident, McCloud said.
“At first, everything had to be really strategically planned,” he said. “Now we’re able to get that information from squad leader down to the team leader, who gets it down to the Soldier.”
Improving communication was the biggest benefit of the exercise, he said. “You get confidence because everyone knows what their job is, which builds confidence in yourself and your fellow Soldiers.”