On May 31, over 60 soldiers from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment, based out of Afton and Evanston in Wyoming, traded in the normally cool weather of Wyoming for the desert oasis of the National Training Center in Ft. Irwin, California.
“The NTC is known for training up companies and organizations to go and deploy,” said 1st Lt. Alyssa Brenner, commander of 1-297th. “What we are doing here is supporting a division-sized movement. Our role as light infantry is to be the decisive operation, clear urban areas, and learn how to work light infantry with mechanized heavy infantry.”
In order to do that, the service members worked tirelessly through scenarios and missions that were handed down to them by the operations team at NTC. They would often wake before dawn to start their training and continue through days that reached well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. During these events, the unit prepares for whatever situations they may face when defending the nation.
“We give the most realistic training you can receive outside of actual combat,” said Cpt. Joshua Kiehl, a primary observer, coach and trainer at NTC. “We replicate every effect, from chemical attacks to anti-tank missile systems. Whatever a soldier may face, it is replicated here.”
Kiehl felt the unit was doing very well during the training events. He believes that this sort of training allows them to learn more than they would be able to at their home station.
“The biggest challenges the units face would be them exercising all the things that they normally aren’t able to,” he said. “Whether that be resupply or casualty evacuations. We always think about engaging the enemy when deployed but these other things aren’t thought of as much even though they are very important.”
Throughout their time in the box, the unit found themselves up against many challenges but found they were able to learn from all of them.
“We completed an urban clearing exercise yesterday and then did it again today,” said Brenner. “From yesterday to today, we changed tactics and it paid off. We had a very good outcome today and I feel people are learning a lot.”
The new commander felt she was not only learning herself but saw a good amount of development at the team and squad leader levels of the unit as well.
After completing their training at NTC the unit is looking forward to coming back to Wyoming and continuing to build their company and on the skills that they learned while in the heat of the California sun.