Soldiers with Company B, 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division working with aviators from the 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Inf. Div. conducted a capstone air assault training mission Aug. 1 near Fort Riley’s Douthit Multi-Purpose Range Complex.
The exercise, which consisted of several distinct phases, including pickup and extraction by UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, was designed to give the “Bounty Hunter” Soldiers hands-on, intense training to prepare them for the potential rigors of actual combat missions.
“We tell our guys all the time, the two ways we learn are blunt-force trauma and repetition,” said Staff Sgt. Kristopher Berube, squad leader, 1st Platoon, Co. B, 1st Bn., 63rd Armor Regt. “They’ve done their repetition, gone over their battle drills, their weapons system, their marksmanship – then the blunt-force trauma is something so big that happens to them, they realize it all works. This (exercise) is that blunt-force trauma at the end of that repetition.”
The Bounty Hunters were at the complex conducting Bradley Fighting Vehicle gunnery, as well as other Soldier tasks for more than two weeks. On this day, the Soldiers loaded up and headed to a nearby airfield for a different type of training.
“(Working with Blackhawks) really separates us from our mechanized counterparts,” Berube said. “Normally we would be riding the Bradleys into combat and this exercise really simulates us working apart from our heavy support.”
Soldiers went over safety procedures for loading and unloading the helicopters, necessary because many of them had never before been in one. After that, leaders like Berube and Sgt. Stephen Renteria, team leader, 1st Pltn., Co.
B, 1st Bn., 63rd Armor Regt., went over plans for hasty defense and maneuvers to be done after being dropped off by the Blackhawks.
Each Soldier was equipped with blank rounds and Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement Systems, or MILES gear. The high-tech laser sensors are attached to weapon systems and worn by Soldiers, and can sense if a Soldier has been shot and where, lending the training a dose of realism.
Berube, Renteria and the rest of the squad, along with two other platoons from Co. B, then spent several hours in the field developing defensive positions and seeking the “enemy” – other platoons.
“I’m looking to see if they’ve learned everything we’ve taught them to this point, as far as squad attack,” Renteria said of his Soldiers. “We can tell them about accountability, keeping an eye on your battle buddy and watching the enemy. It’s not until you get out here that you actually get a real feel for it. This is where everything really comes to them and hits them, like, ‘I get it now.’”
After the hours in the field and with the rapid onset of twilight, and finally, night, Berube’s squad prepared to be extracted from a pre-designated pickup zone, signaling its transport by using night optics and chem lights. In minutes, two Blackhawks appeared in the distance and approached the PZ, picking up their human cargo, and then flew into the night sky, returning the Soldiers to their starting point at the airfield.
“We try to breed a climate of no fear of failure because, if we’re afraid of failing, we haven’t trained to standard,” Berube said. “We need to continue to train until we feel confident in what we are doing. This kind of capstone event really helps everything out.”
By Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire
2nd HBCT Public Affairs
Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire | 2nd HBCT
Soldiers with Co. B, 1st Bn., 63rd Armor Regt. pause while conducting dismounted maneuvers during an air assault training exercise Aug. 1. The exercise required Soldiers to board, disembark, form a defensive position and reconnoiter enemy positions before reloading onto UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters at night.