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Balancing training and modernization

1-14 Cav scouts show the way

Staff Sgt. George Allan, Specialist Kellen Burns, Specialist Riley Shahan and Private 1st Class Keegan Wohltman, Bronco Troop, 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, emplace an 81mm mortar during a situational training exercise. Photo credit: JM Simpson

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The Blackhawk bumped down into Landing Zone Sparrow; moments later seven soldiers assigned to Bronco Troop, 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT), stepped off and took prone positions as the bird lifted off.

Before the grass and dust had settled, SFC Michael Perkins had his soldiers up and moving out of the LZ.

"This is a mortar section," he had explained earlier before departing Gray Army Airfield, "and once we land, we will begin a non-commissioned officer led, four-day situational training exercise."

As the section leader, Perkins oversaw the training of SSG George Allan, SGT Jonathan Zube, SPC Kellen Burns, PFC Dylan Poynter, PFC Isaac Bowen, and PFC Keegan Wohltman.

"Arriving here via an air movement as opposed to a Stryker is new for us," continued Perkins.

"This is something we don't normally do as a Stryker mounted cavalry unit, but this training allows us to reinforce the basics and train for the future."

Once out of the landing zone, the troopers consolidated their equipment, conducted a sensitive items' check, established communications, and studied a map to determine both a primary and alternate route to locate a mortar firing point (MFP).

"The MFP is where we will emplace our 81mm mortar," commented Wohltman, who carried the mortar tube as he and his comrades began to traverse approximately 900 meters through thick vegetation in 90-degree weather.

"Now all we need is a well concealed position."

Once they found it, Wohltman, Allan, Burns and Shahan emplaced the mortar for simulated indirect fire during the troop's section level STX in support of the scouts.  A section in the cavalry is the echelon below the platoon and is led by a staff sergeant.

"The cavalry's primary weapon is the radio, and the mortar section is a force multiplier," explained 1Lt. Brandon Forsberg, the troop's executive officer.

He added that the troopers are well trained to defend themselves; however, their mission is to answer priority intelligence requirements, or PIRs, needed for higher command's time and effective decision making.

"The cavalry engages with its eyes and ears; it is agile, adept and able to blend in - and lethal if need be - as it gathers information to answer the brigade commander's questions."

As the squadron conducted its STX, it also highlighted the beginning of the 15-month modernization process that 1st Brigade, 2nd SBCT is undergoing.

"The modernization process has begun," commented Capt. Theo Lipsky, Bronco Troop's commander.

"We've turned in most of our Strykers, so we have an opportunity to familiarize our scouts with air operations. We're fortunate to have a habitual relationship with Bigfoot Company, 2-158 Assault Helicopter Battalion, which gave us the ride."

As this process moves forward, the question arises: how does the brigade modernize while training?  It the 1-14 Cavalry's case, the answer is to train hard on dismounted patrolling, to include dismounted mortar teams at the section level.

Lipsky explained that Stryker Cavalry Troops' mortar sections use an 120mm mortar mounted in a Stryker, a mortar that cannot dismount. In order to keep the section trained and ready while the Strykers are being changed out, Perkins contacted other battalions and arranged to use their dismounted mortars.

"We can maintain readiness while at the same time accomplishing what needs to be done during the modernization process," concluded Lipsky.

"If the nation needs us, we are ready."

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