Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Task Force Vigilant Soldiers train for mission

By Spec. Chris McCann2nd Brigade Combat Team Journalist
CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait – The 2nd Brigade Combat Team officially underwent transformation after returning from Baghdad, Iraq, last summer. But the unit, now headed to Baghdad again, is still flexible enough to recognize and fulfill, in a matter of weeks, the need for another unit.Task Force Vigilant is “a special unit stood up for a special mission,” said Maj. Brett Kessler, TF commander. Soldiers in the unit will staff guard towers and entry control points of Camp Victory, conduct combat patrols in three villages in the area to deny anti-Iraqi forces reconnaissance of the camp and defend the suburban and rural areas against the AIF.“It’s an ad-hoc organization brought together for this mission,” Kessler said, “so that the brigade can do the most important mission – training the Iraqi Army.”The need for such a task force was noted a few months ago, Kessler said. The brigade operations team and Col. Michael Kershaw, 2nd BCT commander, worked together on the administrative aspects of the unit, and Soldiers were chosen just before deploying.Most Soldiers in the brigade will be able to spend time in the task force, Kessler said.“Soldiers will have the opportunity to rotate from their areas of operation to Victory base camp,” he said. “It allows Soldiers to live in a place where conditions are better, get a different perspective, stay fresh and stay vigilant.”Combat platoons will rotate together; Soldiers in other units also can rotate into the task force as conditions allow.Training for such a delicate mission is difficult, however. There are many pro-coalition civilians including women and children in the areas, and the decision to shoot or not shoot becomes even more critical.Soldiers from the task force, chosen from a variety of units in the brigade, went to the Coalition Forces Land Component Command Military Operations in Urban Terrain training village here to use the Engagement Simulation Training area, an interactive virtual training device.Teams of five Soldiers would watch and react to three videotaped scenarios in which civilians and anti-Iraqi forces must be positively identified. Soldiers must watch closely for signs of threat and react lightning fast with laser-equipped M-4 rifles.Improvised explosive devices detonated, wounding civilians and Soldiers; friendly patrols came through entry points followed by anti-Iraqi personnel; and vehicles approached ECPs by the book, only to have AIF with rifles jump out and attack Soldiers.Each scenario required Soldiers to react differently – and quickly.“This training is intended for what this team’s going to be doing. We’re going to be doing entry control points, so this is hands-on training for us,” said Sgt. Charles Smith, who is assigned to 2nd Brigade Support Troops Battalion and the task force. While still essentially basic Soldier skills, the training is different from what 2nd BSTB Soldiers – mostly cooks, mechanics and other support troops – normally do, said Smith, a team leader. Although the rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., earlier this year offered similar training, the advanced laser-tag-type gear has limitations.“With this kind of gear, they don’t need (Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System),” Smith said of the gear. “To me, this kind of training builds team cohesion. This is the best kind of training you can do.”“It’s the best training I’ve done,” said Pvt. Corry Negley.Spec. Colin Knight, a task force team leader from 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, said training with the team he will work with was helpful.“We all felt confident reacting with each other,” he said. “Everyone was OK with initiating action.”After the initial reactions, the scenario would replay, showing where each shot went, color-coding each one as a kill shot, wound or miss.Pfc. Alan Barnes, a member of Knight’s team, found the immediate feedback rewarding.“This is something that when you do it, you can see exactly what happened, where your rounds went,” he said.Leaders hope the training will have great impact on the mission in Iraq this coming year.“Whether manning a tower or entry control point or on patrol, they will be faced with a decision to shoot,” Kessler said. “Shooting is the easy part – it’s not shooting that’s hard. You don’t win against an insurgency by just shooting. Most often it’s not shooting that will win it. Today’s training reinforces when to shoot and when not to.”

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