Soldiers’ Resiliency Tested at Victory Forge

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A Soldier in Basic Combat Training with C Company, 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment, provides security as his battle buddies improve their fighting positions at the Victory Forge field training exercise on Fort Jackson, S.C., Feb. 10, 2016. Victory Forge is the culminating exercise for all Soldiers in basic combat training at Fort Jackson. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton, 108th Training Command (IET), Public Affairs

FORT JACKSON, S.C. — Facing a wind chill below freezing, Soldiers in basic combat training with C Company, 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, had their skills and resiliency challenged at Victory Forge, Feb. 9-12, 2016.

“Victory Forge is a Soldiers’ last hoorah, if you will. It’s the last field training exercise they go through before graduating and moving on to their advanced individual training, then into the real Army,” said Staff Sgt. Waylon Scantling, a drill sergeant with the unit.

During Victory Forge, Soldiers’ mental and physical abilities are tested to the limits. They are evaluated on everything they’ve learned in the prior eight weeks of training; from basic first aid to security and reconnaissance patrols.

“When these Soldiers first show up, they’re scared, they’re clueless, and they have no understanding of what’s going on. By the time they reach Vic Forge, they have a better understanding of what’s expected of them and how to conduct themselves. They have a lot of confidence coming out of this and it’s amazing to see that change knowing you were a part of that,” Scantling said.

Scantling, a 10-year Infantryman, has been a drill sergeant for almost a year now and is no rookie to Victory Forge.

“Everything is evaluated out here. We start off small in the beginning. We have a couple patrols and have some casualties where they have to evaluate the casualty and call in a MEDEVAC and we progress from there. It gets a little hairy at the end and we cap it all off with a 12k foot march.”

Soldiers at Victory Forge spend a total of four days and three nights living in an austere environment and for many the unseasonably cold temperatures at Fort Jackson this winter, made the challenge even tougher.

“I’ve been here since May. I got injured the first time so this is my second time around,” said Pfc. Marshan Brown, a culinary specialist with the Army Reserve. “It’s been a lot tougher this second time. Not only is this a different unit with different drill sergeants and we’re trying to get used to each other, the cold this time around has been just about unbearable.”

Though he could have given up after his injury, he says quitting was never really an option.

“I chose the Army Reserve because I wanted to be a role model for my little brother. I never really had anyone like that when I was growing up so it was important for me to stick it out and make sure I was someone that he could look up to in his life,” he said.

Army Reserve Soldier, Pvt. Melissa Stamey, C Company, 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment, works to rebuild her firing position after the wall of sandbags around her M249 light machine gun collapsed during the Victory Forge field training exercise at Fort Jackson, S.C., Feb. 10, 2016. Victory Forge is the culminating event just before graduation for Soldiers at Fort Jackson in Basic Combat Training. Stamey will head to Fort Lee, Va. after basic where she will attend Advanced Individual Training as a supply specialist. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton, 108th Training Command (IET), Public Affairs

And while others in the unit shared the same thoughts about the weather, their reasons for being there were quite different.

“My husband is active duty in the military but I wanted to join too so I chose the Army Reserve” said Pvt. Melissa Stamey, a supply specialist from Virginia.

“He’s been in for about three years and it’s provided for us quite well, but I think it’s easier to keep a Family together being in the Army Reserve. On top of that, I fully intend on using the education benefits once I graduate AIT.”

“I’ve learned a lot since being out here, especially not to leave your weapon lying around! Besides the bitter cold, it’s been pretty fun though,” she added.

So as the Soldiers at Victory Forge struggled with combating the bitter cold and the mock-enemy facing them, drill sergeants like Scantling continued pushing their Soldiers, in preparation for life after basic, for both the Soldiers and drill sergeant alike.

“Being a drill sergeant has been a real experience. With each cycle that goes through, I’ve learned a little bit more about how to train Soldiers and I take their training personally,” he said.

“When I get done on the trail and head back to a line unit, instead of griping about how bad my Soldiers are trained, I’m going to take satisfaction in knowing I played a part in how well they’ve been trained.”

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