A Stryker infantry company from Fort Bliss’ 1st Brigade spent November at the National Training Center, but played a different role at one of the Army’s premier training facilities.
Cobra Company, with 3rd Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, served as part of the opposing force during the November rotation at Fort Irwin, Calif., instead of being part of the visiting unit being trained there.
About 100 soldiers from Cobra Company augmented the resident opposing force at NTC — the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment — and served as the light infantry component during the exercise.
As part of the opposing force, there was a lot less pressure and that gave the company command team and soldiers the feeling that they could take chances and risks and try new things, said Cobra Company commander Capt. Brandon Nalley, of Louisville, Ky.
“Usually when you go as the (visiting training unit), it is like your report card,” Nalley said.
Nalley and his company got to practice their dismounted infantry tactics and got a lot more experience using their Javelin antitank missiles when they were at NTC.
They don’t get to practice using the Javelin as much as they would like back home at Fort Bliss, Nalley said.
“We are absolutely a better company” from having gone, he added.
The experience included spending Thanksgiving out in the field. They had their holiday meal trucked in to them.
“The food wasn’t bad,” said Pfc. Malachi Sowards, a grenadier from Columbia, Mo.
Overall, the experience was well worth it, Sowards said.
“All of us are better soldiers from going and experiencing this,” he said. “We can definitely get great training at Fort Bliss, but NTC is NTC.”
Daytime temperatures in the Mojave Desert were in the mid-60s but could get cold when the wind picked up, said Pfc. David Stegman, from Dallas.
At night, the temperatures dipped into the mid to low 40s.
“It was cold,” Stegman said. “Personally, I don’t do well with the cold.”
“We got a lot of training; we put in a lot of teamwork,” Stegman said. “We did a lot of hiking.”
Pfc. Ben Burton, of Burke, Va., was personally responsible for knocking out 24 vehicles during the elaborate training exercise.
Despite having that sort of personal success, Burton said he was happy when the rotation was over.
“Thank God, we were leaving,” he said about the end of the rotation. “It was tough and challenging with a lot of walking.”
Carrying the 60-pound Javelin system up and down hills was particularly tough, Burton said.
Pfc. Kody Freeman, of Devine, Texas, said he got to learn how to fire off the Javelin.
“That was pretty cool,” he said. “It was a good experience. I learned a whole bunch.”
Staff Sgt. Clint Farina, of Naples, Fla., is a squad leader with 2nd Platoon with Cobra Company. Farina had done training rotations at NTC twice before and once at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La.
But being part of the opposing force gave them more flexibility on how to operate and allowed them to think outside the box, Farina said.
“It allowed us as squad leaders to coach and mentor our younger team leaders and our Joes (younger soldiers),” he said.
Staff Sgt. Stephen Rastelli, from Butler, Pa., is a squad leader with 1st Platoon.
Rastelli had been to JRTC twice before on training rotations but had never been to NTC.
“It was interesting to see it from the other side and watch the mistakes being made at the far end (by the unit that was being trained),” he said.
David Burge may be reached at 546-6126; [email protected]; @dburge1962 on Twitter.
© 2017 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas)
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