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Master of the Bayonet FTX sharpens skills

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The 65th Engineer Battalion, 130th Eng. Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, conducted a Master of the Bayonet dismounted field training exercise at the East Range, here, Sept. 17-26.

Master of the Bayonet serves as a validation exercise with a select number of Level 1 Warrior Tasks and critical job-specific tasks essential to the individual Soldier's daily and wartime duties.

Soldiers demonstrated physical and mental toughness throughout various lanes, and they were evaluated to establish a basis for future squad and platoon evaluations. The exercise prepares them for a National Training Center rotation at Fort Irwin, Calif., in April 2013.

Noncommissioned officers and Soldiers alike braved the rain, patrolled through the mud and muck, and hunkered down at their positions to complete various challenges set before them.

All Soldiers conducted job-specific training. The 34th Eng. Company (Sapper), 65th Eng. Bn., conducted lanes on patrol base operations, urban breaching/expedient demolition charges, counter-improvised explosive devices, and reactions to unexploded ordnance.

Soldiers from the 82nd Eng. Support Co., 65th Eng. Bn., constructed two-man and crew-served fighting positions as part of their experience, while the 70th Geospatial Co., 65th Eng. Bn., conducted job-specific evaluations on their two-week FTX.

Along with specific tasks pertaining to individual Soldiers' jobs, each company dedicated time to the Army's basic warrior tasks and drills, such as tactical and ground-based communications, headspace and timing on a .50 caliber machine gun, disassembling and reassembling an M-19 grenade launcher and first aid on their comrades.

When the dust, or rather the mud, had settled, every individual was trained and proficient in his or her warrior tasks and drills. However, only two were Masters of the Bayonet: Pfc. Nathan Jones and Spc. Eugene Lockwood, both with the 34th Eng. Co., rose above and beyond the standards that were set before them, receiving expert in all of their lanes.

"If Master of the Bayonet were easy and we lowered the standards, we would have more who would achieve the title," said Lt. Col Darman Place, commander, 65th Eng. Bn. "However, I am glad that only two Soldiers claimed Master of the Bayonet. It's supposed to be hard! We never said it was easy, and now the Soldiers know what standard they have to meet and what they need to work on to claim this prestigious title."

Aside from knowledge of their job-related skills, Soldiers demonstrated physical and mental toughness during training.

"I liked that Master of the Bayonet was more hands on, and we had to do all of the aspects on our own," said Jones. "I enjoyed the rain. It made it more realistic and added to the overall training environment."

Faced with grueling tasks and high standards, Lockwood adapted to the training and overcame all obstacles set before him.

"I have been in it for a hot minute," he said. "Getting organized, unit-level training and hip-pocket training is key."

Master of the Bayonet demonstrated that the rank or position of a Soldier does not matter, but rather the determination and motivation to achieve that drives success.

It also showed that no matter how difficult the task, the Soldiers of the 65th Eng. Bn. have what it takes to win.

Article by 2nd Lt. Cortney Heaps, 65th Eng. Battalion, 130th Eng. Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command