Here we are at Fort Dix, New Jersey. The mornings are cold, but when the sun rises here – well, it is still somewhat cold. Fortunately, by the end of the day, when the sun settles in the western sky, you can have some assurance that the nights will be just as cold as the days and the mornings. That’s what Army life is all about – consistency.
I find it kind of ironic that we are here at Fort Dix, one of the coldest Army locations in the U.S., preparing for our deployment to Iraq, one of the hottest locations on Earth – go figure. No matter, the training we are receiving here works just as well in the cold as it does in warmer climes.
We arrived here Saturday, October 18th and we literally haven’t stopped going since. We started off with Army combatives, a mixture of martial arts used for hand-to-hand combat. It was a hit with everyone – literally, we all felt like we had been hit – over and over. There have been a lot of sore muscles and visible bruises from that training.
Our trainers were excellent! They taught us some very basic offensive and defensive fight moves and techniques that, as they put it, were just enough to help us get our butts kicked. What they didn’t tell us is that we would be the ones kicking each other’s butts.
When the formal instruction was over, the instructors had us pair up and challenge each other in one-minute bouts. I am proud to say that nobody held back, each of our Soldiers fought hard, used their new skills, as best they could, and came out fighting.After combatives came our weapons training with the 9mm pistol. For many of our Soldiers this was the first formal training they have had on this particular weapon but, you wouldn’t know it. They all took to it well and in the dry fire portion of the training our troops did great. (dry fire – firing the weapon without actual ammunition - only a laser sensor that simulates firing that makes noise when you have hit the target).
I am continually impressed with the maturity of this unit and how quickly and sincerely they have taken to each other. I watched them helping each other, encouraging each other and making sure no Soldier was left behind. This is one of the Army’s axioms as stated in The Soldiers Creed – “I will never leave a fallen comrade”.
This unit truly has become one of the most cohesive units I have ever been a part of. The caliber of our Soldiers is impressive and I truly am proud to call them my Soldiers. I can speak for MAJ Daneker as well, as she has expressed these same feelings in our discussions. We couldn’t ask for a better group of Soldiers to take on this mission.
Back to our training – we also focused several hours on the use of our protective masks or promasks, as we call them. Most people outside the military call them gas masks. Again, we had a great instructor. Interestingly, the instructor mentioned that he had once considered retraining and becoming an Army broadcaster and joining a public affairs detachment. You would have thought the entire unit were recruiters by the way they told the instructor how great it was to be a public affairs Soldier. Comments from all around the room were directed at him to leave his current military occupation and to come to public affairs. Our Soldiers truly love this field, it shows in their enthusiasm when they talk about it.
Finally, today was a full day of instruction on the use of our assigned weapon, the M16. We started early and picked up our weapons at the weapons vault. Then we headed to the classroom about a half mile away where we reviewed the simple steps of taking an M16 apart and cleaning it. We also had great instruction on new techniques for more accurate shooting.If there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, it is that Soldiers love to shoot their weapon. They don’t always like the classes that teach you how to shoot, but when it comes time to shoot, they really like to light up the targets. We’ll get that chance in a few days and I know many of them are looking forward to it.
To end the day we had PT (physical training). We won’t get many opportunities to have PT while we’re here, but we got out of our classes a little early today and so we had some chow (food) and then went as a group to the post gymnasium. After a quick stretching session, given by SSG Burrell, we broke out and participated in a variety of physical activities – volleyball, running, walking, cardio glides and some of our folks played a few games of ping pong. It wasn’t strenuous, but it was fun.
Kudos for the day go to SSG Delgado. SSG Delgado won’t be deploying with us since he will be focusing on becoming an officer through the direct commission program. However, he is here with us making sure that all of our administrative and logistical issues are addressed. His work here allows all of our deploying Soldiers to focus on training and preparing for deployment. We truly cannot thank him enough for his efforts here and will surely miss having him along for the extended ride over to the sandbox. Good job SSG Delgado.
Photos (top to bottom):
- The unit marches to class in an early Jersey morning. Pfc. Mitchell is our guidon bearer, a traditional Army role for the youngest member of a unit.
- 2Lt. Almodovar, Maj. Daneker and others clear their weapon during the 9mm weapon training class.
- Sgt. Ebel dons his protective mask. During our promask training.
- First Sgt. Martinez takes a beating during Army Combatives training.
- Spec. Logue takes aim during the M16 dry fire exercise.
- SSG Burrell sets his sites during the dry fire exercise.