The decisive-action-training environment rotation that 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat team, 3rd Infantry Division, recently participated in at the Joint Readiness Training Center on Fort Polk, Louisiana, stressed the unit in a number of ways, especially when it came to coordinating attacks against the center’s well-trained and equipped enemy.
The brigade, the first at JRTC to have an 18-day force-on-force rotation, conducted some night operations in which units coordinated attacks against areas where the enemy, simulated by JRTC’s 1st Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, had set up fortifications and was launching attacks on the rotational unit.
The operations were meant to test units and the brigade as a whole on their training and knowledge of military tactics.
On Sept. 7 and into next day, 2nd IBCT conducted “Operation Battle Spear,” which involved a brigade-level air assault and ground-assault convoys on a large town called Sangari in order to seize it from the enemy, which had dug in and fortified the area.
The brigade’s battalions had to coordinate to breach the town and then, once inside, clear several buildings. If they were successful with that, they had the next task of defending the area from counterattacks.
According to Capt. Eric Redlus, an observer controller trainer with Operations Group Task Force 3 at JRTC, the unit used a different approach that allowed it to stay in the fight longer in Sangari than most.
“It is a very tough objective. I wouldn’t say it’s stacked against them, but it’s a very challenging battle that most units struggle with,” he said.
Lt. Col. Matthew Tackett, the senior lead for Task Force 3 Operations Group at JRTC, said they did well.
“They took the city. In the end, they owned the city. But more importantly, I think they reached some of their training end states for why they came down here,” he said. “I think that’s probably what’s most critical about JRTC is units understand they’re going to come down here and train at very complex tasks that they can’t train anywhere else.”
Tackett said 2nd IBCT learned many valuable lessons from the complex operation in Sangari, including air assault and maneuver tasks, as well as coordinating across multiple units within the brigade.
Operation Baler Shield Pursuit
The soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, planned their own complex attack on a village for the last night of the rotation.
This mission, called “Operation Baler Shield Pursuit,” was to finally stop the enemy from launching attacks and resupplying troops from a town that was being used as a logistics hub.
Earlier Thursday, during the final phases of planning the operation, Capt. Weston Goodrich, the commander of Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, said his soldiers were doing an excellent job even though they had not had much sleep.
“I couldn’t ask more from them,” he said. “They’re amazing soldiers. Their spirits stay high. Everybody gets down, but they’d do the mission regardless.”
Goodrich said the most challenging aspect of the rotation for the soldiers was the hybrid threats that were the focus of the exercise. The soldiers had to train to fight both conventional and terrorist elements.
“We’re so used to insurgencies and the fight that we’ve had in Afghanistan and Iraq that soldiers have adapted to that style of warfare,” he said.
“Well, now, we have to keep in mind the conventional army threats, but at the same time, not lose the lessons that we learned from the fights in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he continued. “So, really, it’s taking both of those … and being able to fight both at the same time.”
After midnight, the soldiers walked for hours through the thick and swampy Louisiana woods to launch the attack.
Once they got to the village and breached its defenses, they had to clear several buildings and fight off a capable defensive attack from the enemy.
After the village was taken and food and water were distributed to the civilian population there, the soldiers — covered in sweat and battered uniforms — finally relaxed by smoking cigarettes, eating food rations and taking their wet boots off to air their tired feet.
Lt. Col. Scott Shaw, the 3-7 Infantry’s battalion commander, who went with his men on the mission, said his soldiers took the town in 45 minutes.
“I think every single thing these soldiers do is excellent, and I will tell you the last night was no different,” he said.
Shaw went on to say that even after moving at night in the arduous heat, and after 18 days of fighting JRTC’s opposing force, the soldiers didn’t complain at all.
“They’re just amazing. Our soldiers are amazing, and I’m humbled to be around them,” he said.
Lt. Col. Zanhorn Buckle, Task Force 2 senior at JRTC Operations Group, said the unit did well with the operation.
“A lot of hard training over the past two-plus weeks kind of culminated in their attack earlier this morning after an all-night movement. And I thought it went real well for the unit. They’ve done a lot of growth as leaders and a lot of improvement in their combat readiness,” he said.