Echo Mission transforms to adapt to new battlefield

10/20/2016   Sgt. Javier Amador 108th Training Command (IET) Public Affairs
 

Fort Jackson, S.C. — In the hot, humid late afternoon of July 20, a platoon of Basic Combat Training (BCT) Soldiers are conducting a patrol near their command post’s area of operations during their final Field Training Exercise (FTX) deep inside one of Fort Jackson’s isolated training areas.

A loud whistle breaks the silence and almost immediately, shouts of “incoming!” echo through their formation.

They quickly drop to the ground to minimize their exposure. After the loud bang of the artillery simulation pyrotechnic “impact” has passed, complete chaos overtakes them.

There are casualties crying for help as well as status reports and “nine line” request, providing vital information such as location and tactical situation for the Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) team by radio to their command post.

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A Basic Combat Training (BCT) Soldier acting as a casualty is carried by members of his squad toward their Command Post (CP) after a simulated attack on their patrol July 20 during his BCT Company’s final field training exercise (FTX) at Fort Jackson, S.C. before their graduation. The final FTX allows the Soldiers to apply all of their training under the most rigorous and stressful conditions similar to real combat operations. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Javier Amador, released

On this day, the artillery shell contained a simulated “chemical weapon” and the platoon was denied evacuation by air. The BCT Soldiers leading their platoon needed another plan and they had to act on it immediately.

All the while, their instructors, Army drill sergeant, Staff Sgt. Jack Lee, Fox Company, 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, 165th Infantry Brigade and Army Reserve drill sergeant, Sgt. Leah Anderson of Company D, 518th Battalion, 2nd Headquarters Brigade, 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training) watch the events unfold, leaving everything in the hands of the BCT Soldiers as they go through their FTX facing these challenges and more.

Fox Mission, which was formerly known as Echo Mission is designed to keep Army Reserve drill sergeants current on Army training policies and techniques. The latest difference is that now, the BCT Soldiers’ final FTX before graduation has changed greatly. The old way of evaluating their training during their final FTX was done using “lanes”, stations where each skill they learned such as dealing with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) was evaluated separately. Now, these skills as well as others are evaluated in situations simulating real combat.

Basic Combat Training (BCT) Soldiers call in a Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) request for their simulated casualty July 20, during their BCT Company’s final field training exercise (FTX) at Fort Jackson, S.C. before their graduation. The final FTX allows the Soldiers to apply all of their training under the most rigorous and stressful conditions similar to real combat operations. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Javier Amador

The lanes, which included Soldier tasks like an IED lane, react to contact and squad contact as well as deliberate attack now include digging fighting positions, sleep deprivation and other challenges to simulate real life combat situations and stress-ors, said Lee.

This latest transition is driven by the newest mission requirements. Whether they are tactical or humanitarian, these missions demand that the training has to change in order to best prepare the Army’s newest Soldiers to succeed. 1st Sergeant Earnest Jamison, an Army Reserve Soldier and the First Sergeant for D Co. explains the transition of the training from an older model to the present model.

“The difference is (in) what’s going on in the world today. Back when I was a drill sergeant, the emphasis was on training for the Cold War era where we taught tactics which were not effective in the Middle East. They were not effective in urban operations,” said Jamison, “BCT has been totally revamped. Not only do we teach them our different tactics, we teach the Privates how to be leaders, better leaders who make better decisions.”

There is currently a shortage of drill sergeants which the Army Reserve drill sergeants are helping to fill. They are serving longer and longer periods of active duty. While performing their duties as drill sergeants is their main responsibility, the additional periods of active duty also give them a greater opportunity to contribute their civilian skills, giving them added value as Soldiers.

Army Reserve drill sergeant, Sgt. Leah Anderson of Company D, 518th Battalion, 2nd Headquarters Brigade, 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training) directs Basic Combat Training (BCT) Soldiers through rough terrain to ensure their safety July 20 during their BCT Company’s final field training exercise (FTX) at Fort Jackson, S.C. before their graduation. The final FTX allows the Soldiers to apply all of their training under the most rigorous and stressful conditions similar to real combat operations. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Javier Amador, released

Anderson is no exception. As a police officer, she needs to have the ability to read people in order to determine their intentions, a vital survival as well as crime deterring skill. It is also a skill she can use to help her active duty counterparts identify and address potential situations either faster or if they were not aware of them.

With the Army’s shortage of drill sergeants come different and rewarding opportunities for Soldiers interested in becoming one, both active duty and reservist alike, should they decide to take up the challenge of becoming one.

“Not only do we take Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO s), we take Specialists as well and a few things that I tell them is that it’s a great career enhancer and that in my opinion, one which I feel most drill sergeants will agree with, it’s the best job in the Army because not only do you affect one life but a platoon of civilians. It’s you who turns them into Soldiers and it’s you who will make a lasting impression on them. They may forget everything about basic training but they’ll remember their drill sergeant,” said Jamison.

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The Griffon Summer 2017

Vol. 41.3 | Fall 2017

The Griffon
The Griffon is written and published quarterly in the interest of the 108th National Training Command.
 






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