Infantrymen with the 3rd Infantry Division’s 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team took part in a combined-arms live-fire training exercise Friday at Range B18, also known as Galahad Drop Zone.
The exercise was part of the 4th IBCT’s three-month training exercise called Vanguard Focus. The 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, was the first of the Vanguard Brigade’s three infantry battalions to go through the live-fire exercise. The 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, will complete the exercise next week.
Cottonbaler Commander Lt. Col. Scott Shaw said his infantrymen were supported by engineers, aviation, artillery, mortars and a heavy-weapons company. The supporting artillery unit was from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, and the aviation support was from 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade at Hunter Army Airfield. A “myriad of other enablers” also supported the infantrymen as they cleared a bunker, trench line and several houses.
“The range is about 1.2 miles long,” Shaw said, explaining the mission. “Charlie Company will start from an assembly area and work their way down to the first objective … (The exercise) takes about an hour. When they’re done, they’ll be picked up by (CH-47 Chinook) helicopters.”
As the troops moved through the wood line for “movement to contact,” they began taking simulated automatic-weapons fire from two bunkers to their right front. Almost immediately after calling in fire support, the sound of 105mm howitzers as well as 60mm and 81mm mortars could be heard firing at another range.
Although the impact of those rounds was miles away, smoke rising from the two bunkers simulated the targets were being “softened” by the indirect fire. The soldiers then raced across open ground to each red-clay berm that simulated the bunkers. They immediately began firing live rounds from their M-4s and squad automatic weapons at targets on the other side of a long strand of concertina wire.
Combat engineers with the 3rd ID’s 4-3 Brigade Special Troops Battalion ran forward, laying a Bangalore torpedo through the wire. After they returned to the bunker, the torpedo was exploded. The infantrymen reacted to the breach in the wire by running through the hole. Soon, the entire company was on the other side on line and in the prone, preparing to take their next objective.
Throughout the attack, two OH-58 Kiowa attack helicopters provided direct air support with 50-caliber machine-gun fire and 2.75-inch HYDRA 70 rockets.
“My soldiers are tremendously excited about what we’re doing here today,” Shaw said. “It is cold. I believe right now it is 25 degrees, but the soldiers are extremely motivated.”
Shaw said Vanguard Focus was testing the mettle of soldiers and leaders as well as the equipment and technology used on today’s battlefield. Vanguard soldiers will continue a heavy training schedule up to their going to the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, in August.
The 4th IBCT is slated to be reflagged as the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team in May, Shaw said.
“You can train a brigade here (at Fort Stewart), but what you can’t do is replicate the combat effects that Fort Polk has,” he said. “They have a dedicated opposing force, fire markers that represent field artillery and cadre that can cover down on all three maneuver battalions and support battalions.
“JRTC stresses the logistics of the brigade. They have a staging area near Alexandria (La.) that’s about 40 miles away. You have to move your brigade from Alexandria into the box, and that is a stressful two or three days of planning, followed by a long day that is followed by a long night and another long day as you fight your way into the box.”
Vanguard Focus began Jan. 6 and will continue through March 23.