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Saturday, July 08, 2006

LETTERS FROM A SOLDIER #3 

LETTERS FROM A SOLDIER #3

The following is the third in a series of letters home from my nephew Keith. I am publishing them so that we may all have a better understanding of the young men and women who are placing themselves in harms way to protect us, and our way of life. They will follow him through the remainder of his training, and into his deployment. I do so with his permission, and the concurrence of his wife and son.

S/SGT Keith is an army veteran and civilian police officer who joined the active reserves after the September 11th attacks. He and 10 members of his MP unit have been called up for deployment to Afghanistan to train new Afghani police officers. All eleven are either police or corrections officers. The unit is presently at a base in the Southwest, training with a Navy unit before shipping out. This series are his letters home detailing his training experiences, and will continue through his deployment. I am withholding his last name out of courtesy to his family and simply thank him for his service to our country

July 8, 2006
Hello All,

Well, another training task has come to an end, which means we are that much closer to completing our training. We spent the last several days encountering the ECP/FOB, Entry Control Point/Forward Operating Base lane. This training is, to an extent, meant to bring all of the previous training tasks together in one large scale live fire exercise. The first day was spent covering some classes, death by power point as I like to call it. Then we went out to the training range and did a walk through of all the different rotations we would have to man for the next 2 days. The first station was controlling the entrance to the ECP, which included tasks such as vehicle and personnel search, and providing the manpower to properly protect the FOB should it come under attack, which of course it will since that is the whole point of the range.

The second station was the CCP, or Casualty Collection Point. The job of the CCP is to respond to anywhere in the ECP area and recover casualties, quickly access their injuries and apply life saving measures. Then you place the injured soldiers on a litter and carry them back to the CCP where they receive more care while awaiting the arrival of a simulated MEDEVAC. The next station was the QRF, or Quick Reaction Force. This is an element that is mounted in Humvees and responds to the main wall of the ECP and assist in repelling any attacks. The fourth and final station is the Reserve Force. These are the troops that are not manning any of the other stations and are called upon to assist any of the previously mentioned stations should they become overwhelmed. Considering this is training there shouldn’t be any doubt that this would certainly occur. As I said earlier, this training is meant to marry all the previous training. The only problem was that the unit that we were attached to had not yet received that training. Another problem was that the unit is a Head Quarters Unit. That means “paper pushers”, supply personnel, cooks, and the like. Not that I have anything against the soldiers who perform these duties; after all we are all infantry first and foremost, but lets be honest. Also they were very “rank heavy”, lots of higher ranking NCOs and Officers.

We were split into 4 platoons and luckily the 11 of us were able to stay together, something that has been rare during our training. On day 2 our first task was to man the CCP for this blank fire exercise. Everybody took their positions, the ECP was opened and the fun began. After the main gate dealt with some role players, explosives were detonated to simulate a VBIED, or Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Device attack. After that, more explosives to simulate RPG and Indirect Fire, followed by the appearance of targets down range and the “fight” was on. It wasn’t long before the calls poured into the CCP for litter teams down range. The “fight” lasted approximately an hour and we had to recover 16 casualties with only 3 litter teams. Needless to say, we were exhausted.

Our next assignment was to man the ECP itself; and I was assigned, once again as RTO. Apparently the HQ Unit found out I was a cop and decided to again exploit my radio skills. This of course was fine by me because only the RTO and Commander don’t have to hit the ground when the explosions start; we are allowed to stay up on one knee. Doesn’t sound like a big perk, but when you’re wearing all that gear, having just carried 6 litter patients, and are 41 years old, believe me, it’s a perk. Our scenario began much like the first, but we came under a mortar attack to kick off the “fight”. The instructors quickly made the Commander a casualty leaving me to deal with a soft spoken Lieutenant, not the best combination during a fire fight, simulated or not. This is when I finally realized that this training was more about leadership than anything else. This will become clearer shortly, so stay tuned.

Our next stop was the Reserve Area where we spent about 20 minutes before being called up into the “fight”. The higher-ups had discovered that things went much smoother when they called for reserves as soon as the shooting started. I luckily was not sent forward and was able to eat a quick meal before our next rotation. Our final stop was the QRF, but since there were too many of us and not enough seats in the Humvees, the extras went to the ASP, Ammo Supply Point and aided in keeping the ammo flowing forward. By the time the training day was over we had gone through 20,000 rounds of ammunition and I had not fired a shot.

On day 3 we were to repeat the actions from day 2, only do it better and with live ammunition. The cycle of rotations was to stay the same, with us going from CCP to ECP to Reserve and ending with QRF. I was assigned as the Commander’s full-time RTO. The CCP ran very smooth and much better than day 2. Then we moved to the ECP where the instructor again “killed” the Commander. About 20 minutes later the same instructor told me to stop doing the Lieutenants job for him or he would “kill” me too. Five minutes later, I was “dead”. Next it was to the Reserve area where I again acted as the Commanders RTO and therefore didn’t have to respond forward into the “fight”. Our final assignment was the QRF. Finally the instructor didn’t “kill” the Commander, but he “killed” me as soon as I got out of the Humvee. See what I mean about this exercise being more geared towards the leadership.

All in all it was good training that demanded a lot, both mentally and physically. The days were long, going from 4AM, until after 8PM each day, so we were all glad when it came to a conclusion. The next and final 6 days of our training will cover CQM, Close Quarters Marksmanship, and Urban Operations, which promises to be fun. I will send another update when we complete those tasks.

I look forward to seeing you all soon. Hopefully we will get some leave once we have completed our training and before we deploy to Afghanistan.

I love and miss you all
Keith

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