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Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011

Armor BOLC lieutenants enter tactics phase

- The Bayonet
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FORT BENNING, Ga. — The first class of lieutenants going through the Armor School’s Basic Officer Leader Course at Fort Benning are about to wrap up the tactics phase.

The students from L Troop, 2nd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment, 316th Cavalry Brigade, was divided in half for its Situational Training Exercise. Thirty-nine future platoon leaders went to the Selby Hill Combined Arms Collective Training Facility for M1A2 tank maneuvers, while another 40 were at the Good Hope training area to conduct reconnaissance missions on Strykers and Humvees. After a week at each locale, the groups rotated.

The outings were aimed at teaching the lieutenants how to shoot, move and communicate from mounted and dismounted platforms, said Capt. Brenton Blair, tactics officer for L Troop, 2-16 Cav., and officer in charge of the course’s tank STX portion at Selby Hill. Mission scenarios included mock improvised explosive devices.

“This is the most realistic training they can get without the explosions,” he said Thursday. “All the training they can do here may wind up saving the lives of their Soldiers when they get to a unit.”

IED reaction was one of three lanes set up at Selby Hill. Instructors taught lieutenants how to manage the scene in the aftermath of a blast, provide security and recover a vehicle.

“There’s a lot of chaos going on,” said Staff Sgt. Raymond Whitener, the communications NCO for 2-16 Cav. “The platoon leader has to maintain command and control.”

On Selby Hill’s other two lanes, students learned about moving in urban terrain and establishing a traffic-control point. The setting featured six Afghans dressed in native garb and acting as mayor, imam and local business leaders. The lieutenants were forced to engage them via interpreters, and it served as a cultural awareness forum.

The first Armor BOLC group sent through Selby Hill arrived Wednesday morning on a 10-tank, 10-Humvee convoy originating from Harmony Church. Blair said the “road march” allowed the class to gain more insight into convoy security, turret orientation and other practical tactics.

At Good Hope, the lieutenants were broken down into platoons, Whitener said: two Humvee and one Stryker. Students served as tactical commanders, gunners and dismounts for zone and area recon operations.

Both groups have been in the field for the entire STX, slated to end Sept. 9. They each built a tactical assembly area, or “Alpha Alpha,” near the training sites, where the officers slept, prepared for day and night missions, and got reconstituted.

The brigade’s B Troop, 1-16 Cav., provides opposition force role players, Humvee drivers and logistical support during Armor BOLC exercises.

Blair said Fort Benning’s inaugural class, which began June 9, has three international students from Uruguay, Uganda and Jordan. The rest are Army lieutenants.

The 19-week course culminates in a field-training exercise next month. Leaders said the class will be tested on foundations, gunnery, leadership and tactics over 14 straight days, with little sleep in between.

“We’re going to push them to the limit mentally and physically,” Blair said.

The lieutenants are scheduled to graduate in October.

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