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Force-on-Force Convoy Training

An exercise conducted in the backwoods of Kentucky provided Soldiers of the 626th Brigade Support Battalion with what they would need most in Iraq: confidence.

It is only 0800, but it already has been a long day. As the heavy, expanded mobility tactical truck lumbers cautiously at the head of the convoy, a powdery haze of white dust coats everything in its wake. The truck’s gunner looks left and right, straining to see through the maze of junked cars littering the roadside.

Suddenly, the thunder of an improvised explosive device (IED) shatters the air. Soldiers spring into action, returning fire against the enemy, treating and evacuating casualties, and crossloading equipment from the disabled vehicle. In a matter of minutes, the convoy is on the move again.

This scenario sounds like those that occur all too often on the battlefields of Iraq. However, it actually played out in the backwoods of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where Soldiers from the 626th Brigade Support Bat-talion (BSB), 3d Brigade Combat Team, 101st Air-borne Division (Air Assault), participated in a force-on-force convoy training exercise in preparation for their upcoming deployment to Iraq.

Not long before the exercise, the 626th BSB had implemented a new convoy standing operating procedure (SOP). Battalion Command Sergeant Major Stephen D. Blake developed the SOP, using the Center for Army Lessons Learned Web site to gather the most recent tactics, techniques, and procedures used by units operating in Iraq. “I simply compiled information that was already out there, then tailored it to the types of missions our unit will run [in Iraq],” said Blake.

The complex training exercise incorporated realistic enemy tactics, civilian noncombatant role players, and numerous manmade obstacles on a 5-kilometer route. The multifunctional logistics convoy included Soldiers from all of the battalion’s companies. For many of them, this was the first time they had worked together.

During the exercise, Soldiers were forced to react to ground and vehicle-borne IED attacks, dismounted enemy attacks, and civilians needing assistance. Convoy commanders learned to coordinate with adjacent units and to evacuate friendly casualties.

Initially, the training was leader-focused; the offi-cers and noncommissioned officers negotiated the convoy lanes to validate the new SOP. Units then reviewed troop-leading procedures and conducted rehearsals and precombat checks.

The difficulty and intensity of the training was a confidence builder for Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) veterans and new Soldiers alike. “The emphasis [was] on rehearsals, coordination, battle drills, precombat checks and inspections, rules of engagement, security—Soldiers have to think and rapidly solve a series of problems,” said Staff Sergeant Tony Ringle, a cavalry scout and OIF veteran who assisted the unit with mounted security techniques during the convoy lanes.

Individual Soldier medical training was emphasized during the exercise. “[When Soldiers] are more alert, they know what to do, and their actions will be really helpful to medics,” said Sergeant Amanda Volker, a healthcare specialist participating in the exercise.

Though the exercise had many Soldier, small unit, and collective objectives, the most important among them was increased Soldier confidence. “This training takes away the fear . . . ,” said Command Sergeant Major Blake. “Soldiers learn to react—[they] don’t wait to be led—when the situation happens, they know what to do about it and do it.”

The Army Logistician staff thanks Major John T. “Tom” Bryant, Public Affairs Officer for the 3d Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, for providing the information contained in this article. The 3d BCT currently is deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.