Back to News Front

Triple Nickel storms the trenches

570th uses an old setting to practice modern tactics

Members of the 570th Sapper Company conduct a trench clearing exercise to learn close quarter combat skills in unfamiliar terrain. Photo credit: Kevin Knodell

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

Trench warfare defined the early 20th century. It was a bloody, vicious, costly and miserable way to fight wars - millions died storming trenches in World War I. In the 21st century - the era of drones and precision missile strikes - trench warfare seems downright antiquated.

That's why it would surprise many to see soldiers from the 555th Engineer Brigade's 570th Sapper Company storming trenches on August 4th. But there's a method to their madness.

First Lieutenant Anthony Frisone said his request to use a training area with trenches raised eyebrows when he suggested it. "I think for people to just look at this as a trench is short-sighted," he said. As he sees it, it offers new terrain for his soldiers to train in - and offers many of the same challenges soldiers have regulary faced in recent battles.

"It's just like clearing a room, clearing a cave, or a building with lots of hallways," he said. "The fundamentals are the same."

The officer explained that using the same training areas can lead to soldiers getting overly familiar with the terrain - necessitating fresh environments to keep them challenged. He figured the trenches were a perfect change of scenery.

With looming sequestration and budget cuts, the Pentagon is expecting leaders to use resources more sparingly. But Frisone said that creative use of resources and available space can keep readiness high. "You don't need a ten million dollar complex," he said. "We're doing some fantastic training, that anyone can do, to build on those fundamentals in what's literally a hole in the ground."

"You don't need to do these massive funding projects to build these fantastic training facilities," Frisone continued. "I mean, they're awesome and I've gone through a couple of them, but it's not needed if the money isn't there."

It's clear as the sappers go through that the trenches aren't used regularly. Several sections are overgrown with thick brush, and shrubs and bushes dot the pathways. "It looks like Jumanji in here," Frisone joked.

During one stretch of the exercise, a bat flew out of a crevice - surprising the soldiers. During another, the soldiers startled a "ginormous" lizard. Large wasps buzzed all around the fortifications. "It's Jurassic Park in here," Sergeant First Class Novembre remarked.

The site may be old - and a bit wild - but the 570th‘s leaders said the labyrinth provides the soldiers with valuable challenges. "People think ‘well this is not 1914, we're not doing trenches anymore, and it's kind of left by the wayside," Frisone observed. "And there's really so much training value here in getting the guys here, working as a team and shooting and communicating."

Abigail Toth, a West Point cadet attached to the 570th for the summer, went through the course paired up with Sgt. Marcus Montez. "This is a pretty unique environment. This was some great close quarters training ... and it's probably the first time I've done live fire in an environment like this."

"It's not just shooting, it's actually learning," Montez said. "It's more tactical then just going out to a range, where you actually get that feel of walking and shooting." 

Read next close

Military Life

Betties bout to benefit kids

comments powered by Disqus