FORT POLK, La. –
The role of South Atropia People’s Army gave way to the 1st. Battalion, 149th Infantry to conduct small infantry tactics during their annual training at Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, Louisiana, July 10 – 30, 2016.
More than 400 Kentucky Guardsmen from 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry honed their warrior skills while acting as the opposition force during rotation 16-08 at JRTC.
Their role as opposing forces was to increase the combat readiness of the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, New York National Guard, for three weeks as a realistic defensive and offensive force during their rotation in ‘the box’.
The box is comprised of 200,000 square acres of fields, marshlands and makeshift towns used to replicate villages in Eurasia. The 14-day force-on-force fighting scenario helped to better prepare units for situations they may encounter on the battlefield.
“This is a training dream, no administrative work and all our time is spent in the field,” said Sgt. Matthew Walton, unit training non-commissioned officer, Alpha Company, 1/149th.
“We have battalion sized infantry units attacking us and this is beneficial to our soldiers who are holding new positions in the unit. This gives us different perspective of the fight, and allows us to utilize small unit tactics,” he said.
Although Kentucky Guardsmen are portraying the enemy, leadership has turned this into a unique opportunity to conduct infantry platoon maneuver training to all units during the exercise.
“This is a true assessment of our ability to maneuver, call-for-fire, defend and coordinate with adjacent units on the battlefield,” said Capt. Joshua Bailey, company commander, Charlie Company, 1/149th.
“We have relied on and used 60mm and 80mm mortar systems during the simulated fight and that’s one aspect of training we don’t to do very often” said Bailey.
Sgt. Jonathan Johnson, a mortarman, attached to Bravo Co. 1/149 said, “At Fort Knox we get to fire mortars, but being here at Ft. Polk, it gives us the opportunity to integrate and move with infantry units.”
“It’s better training for my mortar team and if we get deployed together we will know what to do,” he said.
As the only offensive unit in Kentucky with the mission to close in and destroy enemy, the 1/149th is gaining much –needed experience in fortifying defensive positions, placing improvised explosive device (IED) and learning how operate surface-to-air missile systems.
Role playing aside, training in 100-degree heat, deploying concertina wire, placing obstacles, digging and sleeping in fighting positions, and conducting patrols during the day and night test the toughness of individual Soldiers.
“I know what my guys can take, they’re tough and they’re proving it,” said 1st Lt. Michael McFadden, company commander, Alpha Co.1/149th.
McFadden, along with other leadership, appreciated the high level of tactics and realistic training the JRTC implemented, and they plan to use these skills for future training exercises back in the Bluegrass.