CLAY NATIONAL GUARD CENTER, Marietta, Georgia, July 10, 2013, By SFC Ron Cosgrove - Sunday, June 23, 2013 began as a cloudless, humid day at Fort Yargo State Park in Winder where members of the 1st Brigade’s 3rd Battalion, along with guests from Brigade Headquarters, fell into their first formation promptly at 0730 hours to discuss the business of the day: land navigation.
Shortly afterward, 1LT Kenny Weaver led an inspiring chapel service under the pavilion where troopers had gathered to hear the recently promoted chaplain lead the non-denominational gathering.
At the conclusion of the service, the S3 shop of the 3rd Battalion divided the group into two teams, Alpha and Bravo, and they were thoroughly briefed prior to the beginning of the exercise. According to WO1 Kevin Ward of the S3 Shop, the overall objective was to locate specific grid coordinates or landmark locations, hone and improve the troopers’ land navigational skills, and to navigate around obstacles – which is especially important over long distances.
Ward stated, “We also challenged junior leadership to have to ‘step in’ and continue the mission.”
This game-changing tactic came at a pre-selected time by the trainers. Without warning, those leading the navigational exercise were removed from their responsibility and replaced by soldiers who moments before were just followers.
Ward continued, “We are always testing SOP’s [Standard Operating Procedures] in regards to TOC [Tactical Operations Center] operations to determine if we’ve overcome past problems. We have to make certain that we have effective interoperability within the battalion and the ability to function concurrently with other units as needed.”
Bravo team, using their compasses and land navigation skills, arrived successfully at their destination – a challenge coin placed in a tree trunk about six feet off the ground. SFC Doug Ford smiled as he removed the medallion target from the tree he had placed it in hours before.
Once both teams completed their exercises, they returned to their formation area and debriefed by providing after-action reports in the form of a “hot wash.”
Battalion commander LTC Mike Hayden concluded, “The degree of difficulty faced by both teams participating in the exercise was the equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack.” He added that he was very proud of the professionalism and realism of the training and that, “Today’s FTX (Field Training Exercise) just showed the high degree to what today’s Georgia State Defense Force is trained to”.
Story and photos by SFC R. O. (Ron) Cosgrove – S-2/UPAR