"Ready for War" -- Buddy Team Training
By: Amy Jacquin
(Fort Campbell, KY)--With the tension with Iraq, the ongoing fight against terrorism, the deployment of more troops… war seems more a probability than possibility. And we can't help but think about our military men and women who will be in the middle of battle… especially if you have loved ones in uniform.
Will they be okay? Are they really ready for the front lines?
Amy Jacquin has a unique perspective on those questions, after spending some time at Fort Campbell. She calls it an eye-opening experience to buddy-up with the 101st Airborne Division as they trained.
She takes us through repelling head-first as some of the famous air assault training... storming buildings in a fake town built to prepare them for for urban warfare… and manipulating a firearms course as enemies attack.
That's where we start with this report: buddy-team training.
Fort Campbell, Kentucky, is a place where young men and women become soldiers. It's home to the only Air Assault Division in the world - the 101st Airborne Division, known as "the Screaming Eagles." We talk with hard-working soldiers of Bravo Company, Third Battalion of the 327th.
Before they learn how to repel out of helecopters or storm an enemy building - they begin with the basics. We watch buddy-team exercises, where they learn how to shoot the enemy-and not, accidentally, each other.
"Staying in your lane… you stay on your side, your battle buddy is in his side, knowing when he's moving, and when you're supposed to move," explains PFC Meredith, a young man from Philadelphia.
Friendly fire accounted for 21% of American casualties in WWII, 18% in the Korean War, 39 % in Vietnam, and 49% in the Gulf War -- according to the American War Library.
"You've got to trust the guy who's shooting right next to you," emphasizes Meredith.
20 year old Tyler Springstead of Farmington is one of those guys. He agrees, you can't practice enough.
"Yeah, sometimes you forget some stuff, and get rusty," he says. "But this is a pretty good group of guys."
Tyler enlisted on July 4, 2000. His older brother is here at Fort Campbell, too. They're both following in their Father's footsteps. Recent talk of war puts a different perspective on what would be a routine exercise.
"It makes the training a little more important… that you should do a little better in training," says Tyler.
Clinton, Kentucky, native chris barton agrees. "It makes me want to train harder. Learn my job more. Make sure i'm ready to go if i have to go." Chris admits one question he often asks himself is… "Am I trained enough?"
Bravo Company will reach division readiness in about a month. That means they'll be ready for war. But the thought of going to Iraq isn't the only thought weighing heavily on their minds.
"What is it you don't look forward to?" Amy Asked Tyler. "Oh, that's tough," he contemplated. "A few things! Ha!" "Things you can tell me?" asked Amy. "The cold weather."
While soldiers are training, they sleep under ponchos stretched over a frame, called "hooches." Everything they live off of, they carry in their ruck sack, which is the pack they carry on their back. In this case, they stayed for a full week… when temperatures dipped into the single digits overnight, and the wind-chill dropped below zero.
The soldiers are mentally ready for whatever the 101st airborne division is called to do… they're almost physically ready… but emotionally, they're worried about families back home.
"I want them to know I'll be all right," says Chris. "I'm trained. The guys around me will help take care of me. As i will them."
"I'd be all right," Tyler agrees. "Just tell them we're a pretty good platoon. I'd get back all right." "Does that make you nervous?"Amy prompted. "A little, yes."
A sense of urgency prevails… This platoon is using blanks today. But in less than four weeks, they could be called to do it for real.