Friday, August 22, 2008

Signal BOLC III Field Training Exercise (FTX)

The first day of our FTX. We started off with a formation at 0430 (which, yes, means that I had to be up around 0400... so ready to go home, these early wakeups are a bitch). We then slapped our helmets on and went off to an undisclosed location to draw our weapons (back to the old M16A2), masks and sundry other items (magazines, cleaning kits, blank firing adaptor). We got some breakfast and then it was off to the offices in the motor pool to begin planning (we had to backbrief the Battalion Commander at 1500). We then loaded up and rolled out to the site we would be heading to so that we could complete our training. Lots of sitting around afterward (there was only one computer so even with people's laptops there was only so much that could done by everyone), a MRE for lunch and then back to work. We made sure that everyone knew the plan and presentation because they had the habit of selecting random individuals to present to the commander. This was good as later on during the presentation I was called out to present 2 sections. Then we rolled right into preparing for the Rock Drill the next day at 0800.

Unfortunately about 1600 I had a headache coming on, followed by intense nasuea by 1800 after I had dinner. By 1945 I abandoned a presenation and ran for the bathroom. I vomitted and looked horrible (pale and disoriented) and the sargeants decided that I would be visiting the ER. Another round of vommiting there and then some bloodwork and for whatever reason I was admitted (I got to bed by 0445. This was supposed to be a good nights sleep since we were sleeping in the motor pool and I was hoping to get a good 8-9 hours in). Many poking and prodding later and I obviously did not get this benefit.
My view that night... I didn't even have a book on me.
By 0730 I was awakened for more bloodwork, visits by Doctors and breakfast. At least I was able to watch some television and keep myself somewhat entertained (as it seemed like every time I was about to drift off to sleep someone came in). That continued until they finally decided to release me at 1300 to go back to the field problem. I was then tasked to work in the NOSC (Network Operations Support Center) until they could get me out to rejoin my unit. Most of the work involved monitoring the radios and making sure that the reports were updated on a number of big boards. They finally let me sleep for a while around 1800 and then for whatever reason I was shunted out at 2300 to join everyone in the field. I then crawled into an open cot and promptly fell gratefully asleep.

A moderately late start (0700), personal hygene and then breakfast. Then we fell into our routine. We had a couple of classes that we had to qualify on and the permanent party (about 6-7 soldiers and NCO's that are there to operate the equipment and also serve as drivers when we have to conduct movements) started running us through those classes. In addition we had 3 positions that had to be permanently staffed, one in the TOC (Tactical Operations Center) to monitor the radios and 2 on the ECP (Entry Control Point). Based on the rules of the exercise we initially had to create a 360 degree permineter but after that was under control we just had to protect one entry point. Additionally one squad was always on ready alert, our QRF (Quick Reaction Force), who would be ready to sally forth and engage the enemy (or at least hold them off until everyone else was ready).
The standard meal cycle was hot food for Breakfast, MRE's for Lunch and hot chow for Dinner. We quickly settled into the routine, taking care of classes, PLENTY of downtime (Suggestion for you high speed types that are pulling this up searching for Signal BOLC III or OBC (that or BOLC II are probably 70% of my traffic).. bring playing cards! Many games of Hearts and other card games were played).
We did have one notable attack. In a simulate mortar attack we had our comms knocked out and the sleep tent gassed... yes, gassed. Industrial grade, anti-riot grade CS (tear gas). This is why we have the masks... I think I set a new personal record for getting that sucker on (I don't think it even had the chance to hit the ground before I was all masked up). I hadn't been gassed since Basic Training but that was more than enough incentive to move quickly... Except for a tingling of the skin I had to ask people if the grenade had really gone off....

The Sleep Tent aka Home Sweet Home

The rest of our encampment. On the left under the Camo netting is the TOC and all the MSE equipment, on the right is our 5 ton truck.

Not too much sleep overnight (between attacks and shift work). We expected that we would be jumping sites today (packing up everything and then setting up at another point). We received word to perform a recon and stand by for a jump (which meant mainly taking down cots, packing bags, taking down tent and camo netting). After performing the recon we then waited for word to jump. It came and then we moved out. Everything was ready to go in short order, we collected the brass that was laying around and made sure we reset the site as well as we could. Then we moved out to the other site.
I would say that this was the most impressive part of the FTX. We had done some pre-planning and had everyone ready to assault and clear the next training area. We were told that we did a pretty good job (given that we hadn't practiced that much as an infantry unit before) and cleared it in short order before our HMMV's and Truck rolled in. Then in a little over an hour we had the radio antenna, the CP tent, all the HMMV's shelters wired together, the sleep tent and the chow tent all set up.. It's amazing what can happen when everyone is working together and with an overarching purpose.
After that it was back into the routine, training soldiers on the required training, pulling duty, responding to the occasional intruder, catching sleep when you could and sometimes just not moving (it was hot and humid).
An intense Heart's game
More of the same. Funniest event for me was that evening when we had to bag extra chow (call came in at 2400) so I woke up the guy nearest to me and said that we needed to clean the chow tent. He geared up (we had to wear our gear (including helmet) everywhere except the sleep tent and the TOC) and went with me over there. He was so discombobulated that he tactically entered the tent and said that it was clear. He apparently was so out of it he though I meant the military definition of clear, checking things out and killing/capturing any enemies in the destination area..
Wednesday was also the only day that we had inclement weather. Late afternoon we could see the weather coming and it just deluged us (probably about an inch of rain in an hour). Luckily we all retreated to the tents (since there were reports of lightning) and overall came out pretty dry.

Me with the standard load-out. Rifle, Mask on the left, LBV(Load bearing Vest), Kevlar Helmet and not seen but camelbak.

Last Day!! I had my duty that day (everyone was tasked with an additional task to do in the field. Some went to 15th Signal Battalion (AIT Students) and did tasks there. Some had to be leaders of the platoon for that day. I drew the other task, serving in the NOSC and manning the radios, preparing and presenting the Battle Update Brief (BUB). So at 0500 I was up and headed over there. Since we were the last shift we didn't participate but it was very interesting and educational to observe. Shortly after it was over we started the process of getting the 2 platoons back in, sending out Frago's (Fragmentary OPORDs (OPerational ORDers)) to the units to get ready to redeploy. Then we monitored the movements and preperations as well as cleaning up the building that we were in. We rejoined our fellow soldiers around 1330 or so (and immediately began cleaning, getting the rifles and the masks ready to be turned in by 1600 or so). We got back, helped a bit more and then just waited around to finally get released around 1700. Everyone pretty much made a beeline for their rooms and the wonderful showers and beds that lay within. (remember, no showers since Friday evening)

Prepping for the BUB
More preperation for the BUB

And as a parting image... yes, those are Krispy Kreme's. 4 of the 6 days we had these come along in the morning chow run (they are generally available in the chow halls so it makes sense).

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