Story by Winifred Brown on 07/05/2018By Wendy Brown
OROGRANDE RANGE COMPLEX, N.M. Anyone watching Stryker A66 might have wondered who or what had unleashed this peculiar force of nature upon the Chihuahuan Desert.
As a fleet of Strykers assigned to Company A, 4th Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, fanned out across the desert on their way to attack the Malakhand training village here June 24, the Stryker not only kicked up a dust cloud, but developed a roughly 100-foot-high cone of dust above it that stayed with it for more than a mile.
Had this been a real attack, what the Soldiers lost in the element of surprise, they would have gained in the element of fear and that fear would have been justified.
The 15-plus Strykers containing about 150 Soldiers were just one part of live-fire exercises during Ready Focus that a included a variety of combat assets, said Lt. Col. Anthony Gore, commander, 4th Bn., 17th Inf. Regt., 1st SBCT, 1st AD.
"This training is important because it is one of the first times that a company-level leader can bring together all the teammates, the fires, the engineers, mortars, armor, at one point, and leverage those assets on behalf of our Soldiers to do whatever is called by our nation," Gore said.
Col. Michael Trotter, commander, 1st SBCT, 1st AD, observed Soldiers during the exercises and said they impressed him.
"The Soldiers are absolutely fantastic, learning and growing every day in the toughest environment that I've been in in the Army," Trotter said. "And I've been in the Army a long time, so to see our Soldiers get out here in 104, 106 (degree heat), with kit, and having the aggression and violence of action that they're doing out here, is awe-inspiring."
Trotter said the Army is transitioning out of counterinsurgency, or COIN, operations and into decisive-action, near-peer operations, and combined arms live-fire training like this is essential.
"This is where it matters," Trotter said. "We're training, educating young Soldiers, young leaders, on how to war fight with all those combat enablers that we can bring to bear to achieve overmatch."
Sgt. Jackson Haskell, leader of 2nd Squad, 3rd Platoon, Company C, said the transition from COIN operations to near-peer threats allows Soldiers to focus on the skills of basic battle drills again.
"Today's training is good," Haskell said after a dry-fire exercise that would prepare his unit for a live-fire version later in the day. "It's a good reality check on how we are with a near-peer enemy."
And that reality check was a positive one, Haskell said.
"It's been hot outside, it's been a long training cycle and the boys have been pushing hard," Haskell said. "All the leadership is really proud of them."
First Lt. Patrick McCallion, assigned to Co. A, 4th Bn., 17th Inf. Regt., said it is always important for mechanized units such as the 4th Bn., 17th Inf. Regt., to get out and maneuver on a large scale as they did during the June 24 exercises.
"It encompassed all basic tasks it was everything from movement to breaching and then finally assaulting. For an Infantryman, it's all basic tasks, but when you bring it all together, it's really the essence of what we do," McCallion said.
Engineers assigned to the 16th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st SBCT, 1st AD, assisted with breaching capabilities, and artillery Soldiers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, Division Artillery, 1st AD, and attached to the 1st SBCT, 1st AD, provided live artillery assistance.
First Lt. David Proctor, fire directions officer for 2nd Bn., 3rd FA Regt., said the regiment often supports in the deep fight to push out targets that could pose a threat to maneuvering Soldiers.
"A lot of times you'll see fires being send downrange before the maneuver companies or elements actually push forward," Proctor said. "That way we can degrade enemy capabilities, and it's pretty fun to do, honestly. I think we're all just out here loving our job any time that we get a call."
Command Sgt. Maj. Eugene Russell, command sergeant major, 1st SBCT, said the Iron Focus exercises within the brigade prepare the Soldiers for upcoming training that will continue to challenge them.
"Next we'll go into Iron Focus, and the basics are still the same, developing lethal squads able to close with and destroy the enemy, so it will get us ready for that, and then we're going to (the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, in the fall), which is like our Super Bowl for training," Russell said.