From Nov. 13 to Nov. 21, the 1st Squadron , 3rd Cavalry Regiment spent time conducting troop level combined arms live-fire training with Stryker vehicles at Fort Hood.

For civilians living near Fort Hood, that means hearing the echoes of artillery fire at all hours of the day and night.

For soldiers in the squadron, it means long days working to meet objectives according to stringent standards.

The day begins with a blank run, which allows the soldiers to familiarize themselves with the lanes, the terrain and potential targets, according to Command Sgt. Major Kim Mendez.

With that completed, the troop reassembles at the staging area to run the course using (mostly) live ammunition.

Once that run is completed, the troop again gathers for a blank run at night before repeating the process using night-vision goggles and other equipment necessary to navigate in total darkness.

During this recent training, the Stryker crews worked in conjunction with engineer units to clear a lane using an M58 Mine Clearing Line Charge.

“If we used a real one, the explosion would be horrendous,” said Mendez of the 1,700 pounds of C-4 in a MICLIC.

As the Strykers moved at as much as 70 miles per hour toward building frames which potentially housed enemy combatants, calls for artillery fire sent mortars soaring at distant targets.

Crew members manned the M2 .50 caliber machine guns on their vehicles and, as they dismounted to cover expanses of unknown underbrush, carried M240 machine guns, firing live rounds at targets.

Abruptly, a canister of yellow gas exploded, forcing them to quickly grab their gas masks.

The gas, fortunately, was not an actual chemical agent. Nor were the rockets some soldiers hoisted real, due to costs, according to Mendez.

Some distance from the range, squadron commanders observed the activities thanks to strategically-placed cameras along the lanes.

That didn’t help Capt. Kevin Lucas, though, who was responsible for making certain his troops achieved their objective with no losses.

“There’s a lot going on on the battlefield,” said Lucas. “A lot of traffic.”

Lucas is charged with listening to all the information coming through the radio, and using the intelligence available, to direct the troops.

Crazyhorse squad leader Sgt. Alan Bejaranco was grateful for Lucas’ direction. “The importance of communication and good intelligence is what it’s all about,” he said.

Lt. Col. Dave Rowland, commander of 1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry, explained it’s important to make sure the soldiers are at the top of their game during the live-fire training.

“When we see they’re achieving the basic tasks, we make it a little harder,” Rowland said.

For all the soldiers, it’s about being ready at any moment to fight the enemy.

“The motto is, ‘Fight tonight,’” Mendez said. “Even if we didn’t complete this training, it’s essential the troops are ready to go at a moment’s notice.”

As all the troops received their certification, they are looking toward the next step in their training: traveling to NTC Fort Irwin, Calif. in February.

Rowland is rightfully proud of the squadron. “They did a really great job.” | 254-501-7568

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