FORT HOOD — A year after dropping “armored” from its name, 3rd Cavalry Regiment is conducting vehicle training never done before on Fort Hood’s training grounds.
First Squadron’s 1st Platoon, Apache Troop, became the first in the troop to become certified to conduct mounted and dismounted missions on the regiment’s new Stryker vehicles.
“Y’all look very good,” said Maj. Matthew McGrew, squadron operations officer, during the final stage of training Friday afternoon.
About 40 men of the platoon spent the week in the field, first practicing “near peer enemy” scenarios on foot, then adding the Strykers, an agile, armored vehicle capable of carrying a squad into battle.
“The strength of a Stryker organization is the infantry squad in the back of the vehicle,” McGrew said.
Friday’s mission involved using three Strykers to transport the platoon into a “village” to capture or kill a high value target and exit within 20 minutes.
The vehicles, which sit on tires instead of tracks, bobbled across the uneven terrain toward the improvised village, kicking up plenty of dust. As the enemy began to fire, the Stryker, equipped with a .50-caliber weapon, fired back.
Upon arrival, the back hatch dropped open and soldiers poured out, guns raised and ready for combat.
The Strykers remained behind to watch the rear, and when commanded, drove up to bring soldiers out along with the newly captured target.
“The Strykers provide speed, extra protection and more manpower,” said 2nd Lt. Dave Linder, platoon leader.
But the speed can be a hindrance, he added. On the first run, Linder said they drove past where they meant to stop. The next time, they hit their mark.
“It just means you have to have more control in command,” Linder said. “As long as you keep command and control, it’s not going to happen.”
Many of the soldiers, like Linder, came from the light infantry world — meaning they travel on foot — and were using the Strykers to maneuver for the first time. They said they are looking forward to getting back out and conducting more training.
“It’s real quick, you load in and roll out,” said Sgt. Danny Gardner, also commenting on the Stryker’s visual system. “You can get eyes on and don’t have to be outside the hatch.”
The scenario also brought soldiers back to basic Army skills, after years of training specifically for deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan, McGrew said.
“It was unique planning because it’s something the Army hasn’t done in a while,” he said. “Today helps build up to large-scale unit maneuvers.”
As more platoons become certified, training will grow to incorporate an entire troop, then squadron, and so on.
McGrew said they are about nine months into their training cycle, which began at the individual level of training drivers and gunners for the Strykers.
“We’re an infantry-centric organization now. It’s a whole new unit in many respects,” McGrew said. “Getting this training is good for them to build cohesive units.”