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Realism contributes to cavalry situational training exercises

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In the age of modern technology, even the military has begun to utilize tools such as virtual trainers and simulators to augment and supplement traditional field training. But when it comes to getting the full experience, no technology can perfectly recreate the feel of conducting true situational training exercises in the field.

Cavalry troopers from A Troop, 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, "Strykehorse," 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, conducted a situational training exercise on Oct. 17 at Yakima Training Center, Wash.

The training exercise consisted of area and route reconnaissance en route to a key leader engagement with a simulated village leader.

1st Lt. Bryce Land, a platoon leader for A Troop, and the platoon leader orchestrating the reconnaissance movement, said key leader engagements are important because it allows Army leaders to meet with local village leaders and establish a working relationship, build rapport and learn valuable intelligence of enemy activity in the area, as well as how the local population feels about military presence.

"Talking to their leaders lets us know what they want, how they feel about us and the general disposition of the area," Land said.

Perhaps more important is the sense of realism that has been worked into the training. Land said that everything from the environment to the simulated Afghan National Army role players integrated into the platoon contributed to the training's authenticity.

"This is probably the most realistic training we're going to get before NTC," Land said. "We're trying to make it as realistic as possible."

Lt. Col. Carl Michaud, squadron commander, 2nd Sqdn., 14th Cav. Regt., said that his squadron operations and intelligence sections researched current events in theater, and they designed the situational training exercise to simulate what the Soldiers can expect when they go to the National Training Center and in a deployed environment.

"The situational training exercise that the staff from the squadron designed out here will be a very good representation of the skills the Soldiers will need to know as they get into theater," Michaud said. "Of course, as situations change, they'll have the background knowledge to be flexible and adaptable and handle whatever mission the squadron ultimately gets tasked with."

Route reconnaissance is nothing new for the cavalry scouts of the Strykehorse squadron. Land said that, prior to deploying to Yakima, the squadron has conducted many route reconnaissance missions at Schofield Barracks, but the terrain and space inhibited large-scale movements across open terrain. The training area at YTC, however, was more than accommodating, he added.

"We've actually done route reconnaissance, area reconnaissance and KLEs back home as much as we can on Oahu," Land said. "There are very limited movement corridors there and we're very restricted with our vehicles, so we came here to use our vehicles and get a little more training."

Michaud echoed Land's appreciation for the sheer size of the training facility, and said that it was actually one of the reasons the squadron deployed to Yakima for training. In addition to having more room to train, Land said that YTC's training areas are a lot more similar to what the squadron may see in future engagements.

"It's more of a high desert," Land said. "On Oahu we don't have that much high desert, especially that we're allowed to work on."

Michaud said that the platoon STX was actually a continuation of training that began after the brigade completed its reset phase following its redeployment from Iraq in June 2011. The natural progression of training began at the individual Soldier level, and progressed through the fire team and squad levels, leading them into platoon-level training.

"We focused our training methodology, since we had about 18 to 24 months dwell time, starting at the individual scout level back last December," Michaud said. "We focused on all the individual tasks that we could do at Schofield, and then at Schofield we actually ended with a collective training event of platoon STX. That was kind of a practice run for what they'd get to see out here at Yakima."

Michaud added that one of the main purposes of situational and live-fire exercises is to build confidence in the Soldiers; so that the Soldiers can build confidence in their leaders and confidence in their equipment so that they can maneuver, control fires, close width and destroy the enemy.

Another aspect that has contributed to the sense of realism has been the integrated enablers and combat multipliers. Support elements ranging from medics and mechanics to field artillerymen and combat engineers lent their technical and tactical expertise to the squadron's training, Michaud said.

"This has actually been a very big brigade effort; although it's 2-14 Cavalry out here training, we're really Task Force 2-14 and have support from across the brigade," Michaud said. "2-11 Field Artillery sent out their A Battery to support our training so they could integrate fires in with maneuver, both at the Walk and Shoot level which is a leader certification, platoon live-fires, and they'll actually be firing in support of platoon STX and troop STX in a dry-fire mode. So we'll work a lot of that maneuver-shooter linkage throughout our time here.

"And of course you can never do any exercise in the Army without your support," Michaud added. "The brigade support battalion sent out a robust element to support us, so we have our own field feeding team that's providing food for almost 600 Soldiers from across the brigade, as well as mechanics team out here that, quite frankly, has been doing an incredible job considering that we flew about 1500 miles, drew somebody else's equipment, road-marched it 170 miles to Yakima and started training. Somehow they've been able to keep those 29-odd Strykers and all the wheeled fleet up and operational without hindering our training."

As the squadron moves into its final phase of training at YTC, Michaud expressed his admiration for how dedicated the Strykehorse troopers have been throughout their month-long deployment to Washington for training.

"We designed the training so there wasn't a lot of breaks, and the Soldiers are really moving from one either individual training event or collective training event to the next," he said. "They're doing this without a whole lot of downtime, a whole lot of sleep and absolutely no days off, and I think their motivation to this point speaks volumes about the character of Soldiers we have in this squadron and what they're able to accomplish when given a task."

Article by Sgt. Robert M England (2nd BCT, 25th ID)