Paratroopers learn latest battlefield skills at Fort Polk

FORT POLK, La. — Fort Bragg para­troop­ers bound for Afghanistan picked up the lat­est skills and equip­ment from those most recent­ly returned, here at the Joint Readi­ness Train­ing Cen­ter, or JRTC, dur­ing the sec­ond week of Jan­u­ary.

Don Thomp­son, a civil­ian train­er for a bat­tle­field robot, demon­strates how to oper­ate the sys­tem to para­troop­ers with the 82nd Air­borne Division’s 1st Brigade Com­bat Team, Jan. 9, 2012, at the Joint Readi­ness Train­ing Cen­ter, Fort Polk, La.
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A para­troop­er scans the iris of anoth­er using a Hand­held Inter­a­gency Iden­ti­ty Detec­tion Equip­ment, or HIIDE, sys­tem dur­ing train­ing, Jan. 10, 2012, at the Joint Readi­ness Train­ing Cen­ter, Fort Polk, La.
Click to enlarge

Young offi­cers, junior enlist­ed and non­com­mis­sioned offi­cers with the 82nd Air­borne Division’s 1st Brigade Com­bat Team par­tic­i­pat­ed in open-enroll­ment class­es that includ­ed bat­tle­field robot­ics and unmanned aer­i­al vehi­cles, road­side bomb detec­tion and avoid­ance, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, intel­li­gence gath­er­ing, elec­tron­ic war­fare, com­put­er sys­tems for com­mand-and-con­trol and logis­tics, civ­il affairs, the use of the lat­est weapons designed to plug capa­bil­i­ty gaps of tra­di­tion­al weapons sys­tems and more. 

“The Army does a pret­ty delib­er­ate job at putting peo­ple into JRTC who have a lot of fresh expe­ri­ence in what they do,” said Maj. Mark Stouf­fer, oper­a­tions offi­cer for the “Dev­il Brigade,” who arrived at JRTC in ear­ly Jan­u­ary for a month-long rota­tion. “They take that fresh expe­ri­ence off the bat­tle­field and bring it direct­ly to the Sol­diers here, both young and old.” 

Most of the train­ers are con­tract­ed civil­ians that are part of mobile train­ing teams, and many of those are for­mer ser­vice mem­bers with expe­ri­ence in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Pvt. Bryan Cree­don, who joined the brigade in Novem­ber, attend­ed a class on impro­vised explo­sive device aware­ness (how to thwart road­side bombs). 

“I’m fresh out of basic train­ing, so all of this is ben­e­fi­cial,” he said. An infantry­man attached to an out­fit of engi­neers, Cree­don will like­ly be direct­ly involved with clear­ing main sup­ply routes of dan­gers such as impro­vised explo­sive devices, or IEDs. 

Sgt. Wes­ley Hat­field, a vet­er­an of the Iraq war who took the course and sev­er­al oth­ers, said that all of the class­es were excellent. 

“Ain’t noth­ing but learn­ing going on in there,” he said. 

Stouf­fer said that the week of class­es was an effi­cient means of adding indi­vid­ual skills that are foun­da­tion­al to the col­lec­tive, unit-based skills that will be put to the test lat­er in the rotation. 

“We could train at home, but here there are a lot of addi­tion­al train­ers resourced by JRTC who enable us to train all our Sol­diers at the same time, where­as at home sta­tion, we would end up train­ing just a small por­tion of them over a much longer peri­od,” he said. 

“It’s great to get a lot of new equip­ment and train­ing on the new equip­ment, but you need the time, the resources and the men­tor­ship to put all that equip­ment into the tac­tics that have been proven over the years and to employ them,” he said. 

Stouf­fer added that a major ben­e­fit of the class­room train­ing was that any­one could attend any course, which pro­mot­ed cross-train­ing between the var­i­ous mil­i­tary occu­pa­tion spe­cial­ties and made for a more adap­tive Soldier. 

Class offer­ings are stan­dard for any JRTC rota­tion, though the con­tent of each course is adjust­ed as new tac­tics, tech­niques, pro­ce­dures and equip­ment are devel­oped for the bat­tle­field, accord­ing to Maj. John Brit­ton, a rota­tion­al plan­ner for the JRTC oper­a­tions group. 

The Fort Bragg-based unit is a light infantry brigade whose last deploy­ment was to Iraq’s Al Anbar province in 2009-10, where they advised and assist­ed Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces. 

U.S. Army 

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