SOUTHWES ASIA -- Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Darrell Mangham checks on a wounded Sailor during convey exercises at a range in Southwest Asia Feb. 27. Convoy exercises are one of many training requirements Sailors go through before deploying to Afghanistan. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jorge Saucedo)
Commentary by Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jorge Saucedo
Life Support Area Media Transition Team
3/18/2009 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- In recent months the Air Force and Navy have expanded their ongoing ground missions in the Global War on Terrorism. Both branches have sent thousands of Airman and Sailors on Individual Augmentee missions to fill what were traditionally thought of as Army jobs. In most instances they are deployed to the Horn of Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan. Unlike many Army units, IA's come from different commands and form a unit with strangers at their ultimate deployment station. The Navy's deployments range from six to 15 months and can be assigned to anyone capable of fulfilling the rank and training requirements. Likewise, IA positions can be filled by Active or Reserve members. Most IA's seek out and volunteer for their assignments. Why? Typically, they enjoy the chance to experience different missions they never thought they would when they joined the military.
I recently spent two days shadowing a group of IA Sailors who are deploying to different forward operating bases in Afghanistan but trained together. The group, comprised of many different rates and experiences ranging from storekeepers to Seabees. Some came with multiple tours to either Iraq or Afghanistan while others had never deployed before. Prior to arriving at the Life Support Area, the group spent three weeks at Fort Jackson, S.C., completing the Army's Basic Combat Training course. Army instructors showed them the basics about M-16 and M-9 marksmanship and cleaning of the weapon as well as Improvised Explosive Devices training for convoys. After Fort Jackson, the group received two days of training before finally entering Afghanistan. The mission required more in-depth exposure to tactical training. The group was dispersed to a nearby range for the follow up training.
The first day consisted of close quarters marksmanship with the M-9, M-16 and M-4 to get them used to shooting the right way as to not flagging a comrade. This course consisted of the correct way to draw your weapon, to fire and to prevent a misfire from occurring. Sadly, misfires account for many of the total injuries and deaths in a combat zone. The repetition drills are designed to create muscle memory or natural reaction to take away from thing to worry about on the battlefield.
The second day consisted of convoy training with humvees. The training starts from zero with classroom instructions on convoy formation tactics and familiarization on convoy and counteracting Improvised Explosive Devices various types of IED's, how they are used and how they are concealed are also discussed. Once completed the practical training begins. Teams consist of five members, and a driver, vehicle commander, two passengers and a gunner for the turret are assigned. From there they practiced drills on spotting IED's, suspicious activity, security and downed vehicles.
"The training that we have received was key for us to have a basic understanding of how the Army works and how we can support them," according to Navy Cdr. Kenneth Mays.
They spent a couple of hours going over scenarios before actually going through the convoy course. When all was said and done the instructors went over what the Sailors and Airmen did well on and what to watch out for.
For the Navy, this is a new experience instead of the traditional at-sea scene you always expect but are accepting the call to help its Army brother and sister counterparts. Every branch is doing their part to help out against the war on terrorism. From now on you can't just look at the Navy as just riding around in ships but now as members of ground units.