By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Fort Hood Herald
The 1st Cavalry Division's 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, is coming close to the end of its most recent stint in the field.
Soldiers are expected to start returning from Fort Hood's tank and Bradley fighting vehicle ranges this week after two to three weeks of gunnery training.
The Black Knights aren't the only ones in the field. Units across the division are filling Fort Hood ranges. Many in the 2nd Brigade are going through their own gunneries. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team is gearing up for a monthlong deployment to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. The 1st Brigade Combat Team's 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment is hosting live-fire training. Soldiers from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade occupy various ranges. The 41st Fires Brigade is training at the battery level. The 4th Brigade Combat Team is almost entirely deployed to Iraq for an advise-and-assist mission, and small groups of soldiers known as "trail parties" recently finished departing from Fort Hood.
The 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry, led by Lt. Col. Chip Daniels, returned to Fort Hood in December after a year in Iraq.
All on the table
The culminating event during this stage of training is known as Table 6 gunnery. Bradley fighting vehicle crews from Alpha and Bravo Companies and tankers from Charlie and Delta Companies are scored on each step of gunnery leading up to Table 6, but it isn't until then that it truly matters.
Infantrymen of Bravo Company were the first to start their Table 6 Friday.
Getting the required score at this stage means Bradley fighting vehicle and tank crews pass and can go on to the next level of training, which begins in November.
Each gunnery is a step past the last. Crew-level means individual vehicles drive across a particular set of Fort Hood's many ranges and shoot their weapons systems at a variety of targets, also called engagements. These engagements mimic enemy troops and vehicles.
November is the start of situational training exercises, which, for the infantry companies, means adding dismounted soldiers.
Specially selected and trained evaluators within the companies have graded the crews all week leading up to Table 6. They purposely grade tough on Table 5, said Sgt. Richard Corder, an evaluator in Alpha Company's 1st Platoon.
The next phase for the battalion, before a January rotation to the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., is at the platoon level. It is then that crews come together for more complicated missions known as situational training exercises.
Table 6 is a big deal and it is competitive. Daniels gave the infantrymen of Bravo Company a pep talk before they took to the range Friday afternoon, telling them to maximize their opportunities and have fun.
"You get to do stuff that a lot of people in the world don't get to do," he said.
"Whether you plan to make a career out of the Army or not, somewhere down the road you're going to be telling your kids about today. You will be, so have it be a good conversation."
Daniels said the soldiers decided upon a life in the Army because of training like the Table 6.
"All your civilian friends, what are they doing right now," he asked them.
"They don't get to do this."
No time wasted
There are several types of infantrymen in the battalion. One type mans the Bradleys, serving as gunners, drivers and Bradley commanders, or BCs. The second type are called dismounts and they are the men who sit in the back of the vehicle and exit when needed to carry out missions.
Sgt. Ben Rayman, an infantry team leader in Bravo Company, is one of those dismounts. But, during this phase of training, the dismounts aren't yet needed in the Bradleys. They will come into play next month during platoon situational training exercises.
That doesn't mean the dismounted infantryman get a break. They serve on details across the training areas the battalion occupies, said Cpl. Alen Hoover, a dismount team leader who filled a firefighting detail last week at Jack Mountain Range.
Some are temporary firefighters in case flames show up on the ranges. Some serve as gate and tower guards at each of the ranges. Some sit by radios and monitor the calls.