I Corps Works Hard,

 Plays Hard at Camp Shelby

 

Written by Lt. Col. Robert Church

Published August 8, 2006

 

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I Corps Artillery Soldiers take a break during a hot day of weapons training at Camp Shelby.

Photo by of Lt. Col. Robert Church

I Corps Artillery Soldiers take a break during a

hot day of weapons training at Camp Shelby.

CAMP SHELBY, Miss. — As America celebrated her birthday July 4, 2006, with parties and fireworks, so did I Corps Artillery Forward (ICA FWD).

Teams had a couple of well-received days off. Several of the guys flew their wives out and were able to spend some quality time with them, and the unit held a barbecue that afternoon.

Maj. Robert Hales’ brother, Brent, lives in nearby Hattiesburg and is a professor at the University of Southern Mississippi.  He brought venison brats, his catfish fryer and pounds of catfish, and a dozen or more watermelon.

Mobilization Shelby Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) provided burgers, hot dogs, beans, potato salad, drinks and chips.  There was more food than they knew what to do with.  The supply/logistics section, under Lt. Col. Brian Lamb, made all the arrangements with MWR, getting the food, as well as a volleyball net and softball equipment.

It was a great even though it rained with a spectacular thunderstorm towards the end.  It was a great way to celebrate our nation’s birthday.

ICA FWD teams have been training hard in theater-immersion training over the last month. Recently Soldiers spent a couple of days learning to conduct urban operations.  Camp Shelby has its own training location like Tickville Gulch at Camp Williams.  There are actually several different three Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) where urban operations are taught and executed. Groups spent the day at Al Jafah learning about evacuating buildings, patrolling the streets and reacting to sniper fire.

Civilians are hired to portray COBs (civilians on the battlefield).  They interact with the soldiers playing parts of local officials, religious leaders, vendors and beggars.   

Lt. Col. Robert Church drives on the rough-terrain course.

Photo courtesy of Lt. Col. Robert Church

Lt. Col. Robert Church drives on the rough-terrain course.

After a full day of training, the group spent the next day in class, preparing briefings in order to teach the ANA (Afghan National Army) what they just learned.  The group was taught important key components that needed to be covered in the training.  Each team developed a training plan and then implemented it the next day.

Day Four was once again at Al Jafah.  This time, ICA FWD teams were the observers/controllers conducting the training.  A group of Soldiers were portraying the part of the ANA.  We had actual interpreters there to do the interpreting.  These were also civilians; only they’re citizens from Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries.

The trainer would present the operations order, and the interpreter would then interpret into Arabic as if the role-playing Soldiers could not speak English.  There was only a certain amount of time in which to complete the training.  The ANA Soldiers are then sent into Al Jafah to see if they can accomplish the training mission that they had prepared under the advice of our training teams.  They did a great job.  After a successful mission, The ETT conducted an after-action review and went through that process, again, through the interpreters.

One of the most exciting days of training to this point was driving humvees over the rough-terrain course.  It had been raining the day Team 1, Squad 2 was on the course and it was muddy.  In addition to giant mud holes, there were huge bumps in the road, hills to climb and obstacles to avoid.  The trainers set a speed limit, but that speed may have been exceeded on occasion.  The unanimous comment was what a great exercise it was, especially by being able to fully exercise the capabilities of the humvee. 

That night, we drove the night vision course.  We had been trained earlier that day on the use and operation of night vision goggles (NVG).  That night, teams got to go out and put them to use.  It was a good experience, getting used to adjusting and wearing them and then actually using them in a wooded environment.  The teams drove the course just as it was getting dark, then regrouped at the beginning of the course and waited for it to get dark, and after it was completely dark again drove the course several times so that everyone could have the experience of driving with NVGs.

Training continues at a steady pace, well on track for departure to be “in country” at the time planned.