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2nd BCT troops train to skirt combat
Supply convoys keep troops alive
Purple smoke indicates a Humvee has hit a roadside bomb. - photo by Photo by Frenchi Jones
They are known as the life-support for Army brigades, flowing from makeshift base to makeshift base like blood through arteries.
Brigade support battalions deliver supplies to soldiers deployed to combat zones, such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
If the flow of the convoys is stifled, for any reason, it could be life or death for troops in combat, according to members of the 26th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.
“Without fuel you can’t roll your vehicles and without water your soldiers are going to die of heat [exhaustion],” Cpt. Bradley Hudson said.
He is an operations officer with the 26th BSB.
Tuesday afternoon, he drove a dusty brown Humvee down the sandy roads near the back gate of Fort Stewart, following a convoy of five other Humvees and one LHS cargo truck.
After going a short distance, the convoy stopped.
Hudson explained:
“Right now, they have come to a road block and there are Iraqi civilians in the road,” he said. “They have to figure out what to do. They have to call it in and see if there is an alternate route they can use.”
The road block was real, but the civilians were actually 3rd ID soldiers dressed to be Middle-Easterners.
They were part of five simulated engagements during a live-fire exercise where more than 26 26th BSB soldiers, many of them training together for the first time, had to figure out how to maneuver a convoy in a war zone.
“It is not our job to engage in full combat with the enemy. It’s our job to get supplies down range, but they have to know how to assess the situation, determine the threat level and what escalation of force should be used,” Hudson said.
Cpt. Brad Coule said the exercise teaches crews how to work together to keep everyone safe.
“We’re teaching them to be able to distinguish and observe what civilians are a threat, versus what civilians are going about their daily routines out there,” he said. “So we do as much as possible to facilitate a realistic training environment similar to what they are going to encounter overseas.”
After having shoes thrown at their vehicles by fake Iraqis and rounds fired at them by simulated enemy snipers, the convoy made it to its last engagement.
It was an Iraqi checkpoint, where the convoy’s lead vehicle was attacked by enemy fire and a phony improvised explosive device, marked by purple smoke.
During the engagement, the vehicle was disabled, three of its crew were shot and the others in the convoy seemed to be stumped.
“You’re under fire,” an observer points out. “You need to move. What are you going to do?”
The slow progress was not exactly what was supposed to happen.
And it illustrated the reason troops train like this, according Hudson.
“That’s why we really stress that they train the battle drills so that it kind of takes thinking out of it … you build that muscle-memory … and you don’t have to think about, ‘hey, if this vehicle gets hit who is pulling security and who is doing recovery,” he said. “It’s already been rehearsed.”
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