Welcome to 'The Box'

Herald/Amanda Kim Stairrett - Lt. Col. James Makert, commander of the 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, plans an operation in the squadron’s tactical operations center at Forward Operating Base Dallas.

By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Killeen Daily Herald

FORT IRWIN, Calif. — With nearly every forward operating base and combat outpost taking fire, Tuesday was a busy day for 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division soldiers.

The brigade is midway through training in “The Box,” which provides the soldiers with full-spectrum operations. They train as if they are in a combat situation, living and working in similar conditions they’ll encounter when they deploy.

Forward Operating Base Dallas, home to the 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, conducted a mission Tuesday that carried into the next day. The squadron received information from the Afghan National Army that a known al-Qaida leader was hiding in a nearby village, Chah-e Langford, said Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory Turner, the squadron’s senior noncommissioned officer.

A convoy of combined forces moved out late Monday to set up a perimeter around the town so the Afghan soldiers could search for the wanted man.

A firefight broke out between the forces and those in the village that night, but the leader was never found. The soldiers surrounded the city with their vehicles and stayed through the night, when reenforcements could arrive to help conduct the search.

The squadron used assets attached to them, including a working-dog team from Fort Polk, La. Sgt. Jovan Harris and Gabbie worked with the squadron during the search mission.

Gabbie is trained to detect explosives and searched several vehicles that attempted to approach the village. The 4-year-old black Lab is trained to sit and stare at the site when she smells the explosives. Harris is a soldier in the 91st Military Police Detachment, 519th Military Police Battalion.

The two have worked together since April 2007, and they will deploy together for the first time in June, Harris said. During the deployment, they will be attached to a unit, much like they were at the National Training Center.

Harris said he has wanted to work with a dog since he became a military police soldier. The five-month-long training is held at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

A lot of young soldiers ask Harris how they can enter the working-dog program; he said the training is currently only open to military police and engineers.

Harris and Gabbie’s presence with the squadron is just one example of several cross-training partnerships the brigade participates in at the National Training Center. This includes work with Reserve and National Guard troops from California and Texas, an active-duty aviation regiment and Marines.

On Wednesday morning, there were plans for the Afghan soldiers to move into the village and search, but village leaders were hesitant to let them in.

Two Apache helicopters were called in, and leaders hoped their presence would help convince the villagers, but it was unsuccessful. The soldiers returned to Forward Operating Base Dallas 15 hours after the mission began, without the suspect.

Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at astair@kdhnews.com or call (254) 501-7547

Editor’s Note: This is part of a weeklong series of reports by military reporter Amanda Kim Stairrett on 1st Infantry Division training operations from the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. Read her online exclusive Field Journal entries each day at www.kdhnews.com.

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