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By Major Vonnie Wright
Fort Campbell, KY – Red Currahee Soldiers returned from Joint Readiness Training Center-Fort Polk, Louisiana February 24th after supporting 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, during their month-long training rotation.
The Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), received the unique opportunity to help the JRTC support team in the opposing forces role and as a part of the friendly forces host nation support role during the training rotation.
Before attending the rotation, all 203 Red Currahee Soldiers received a COVID-19 Coronavirus test to ensure the safety and wellness of every Soldier and counterpart at JRTC.
Sergeant Evan Thompson, team leader, B Company, 1-506th Inf. Regt., had faith in the process and felt more secure about attending JRTC again after being tested for the virus.
“We all got tested prior to leaving just like prior to us going to JRTC last summer,” Thompson said. “When we arrived at JRTC we were also all spaced out pretty decently for our living conditions as well. I felt pretty safe the whole time.”
Once the safety measures and appropriate mitigations for COVID-19 Coronavirus were validated for every Soldier and the training, Red Currahee immediately hit the ground running at Fort Polk.
The unit was given a unique opportunity to serve with American Special Operations Forces during the training exercise in support of the 82nd Abn. Div. rotation. This was a first-time experience for many of the Red Currahee Soldiers and an opportunity to learn new tactics, techniques, and procedures from the different specialty career fields in the Army.
First Lieutenant Zachary Crews, platoon leader, B Company, 1-506th Inf. Regt., said they served as the special operations unit within the role-playing NATO nation. The Soldiers participated in training operations with the operational detachment alpha teams or ODAs.
“This was the special forces group’s training as part of the bigger picture of the 82nd’s training. It was nice to support both elements during JRTC and my guys learned a lot,” Crews said. “We got to learn and pick up a lot of tactics, techniques, and procedures on how to detect improvised explosive devices from explosive ordnance disposal, executing urban operations from ODAs and dealing with the civilian populace through civil affairs.”
Crews is proud of what his Soldiers accomplished.
“I’ll definitely take this experience and try to build in more training opportunities with our 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Campbell,” he said.
The ability for B Co., 1-506th Inf. Regt. to execute operations side-by-side with special operations forces was a unique learning experience, but the Soldiers also received the opportunity to play a vital role in mission planning at each echelon. The operations process was vital to their success and not only did the Currahees get to see it, many of them were in charge of the planning. For some of the lower ranking Soldiers this was a different experience from their last JRTC rotation, as they mainly executed operations from well-briefed and rehearsed operations from their leaders
“We got to see more of the mission planning this time around,” Thompson said. “We got a lot of practice writing operation orders because the ODA teams really put that portion on us. It was great practice because a lot of us don’t get the opportunity to write and brief a full order all the time.”
The other half of Red Currahee Soldiers received a different experience. This time they were able to see JRTC from the enemy side of the operation, as they joined forces with the JRTC Operations Group as the Opposing Forces attacking another brigade within the box.
Captain Erin Mauldin, company commander, A Company, 1-506th Inf. Regt., was enthused about this experience as she got to see another planning and operational perspective at the Army’s premier training center. Last summer, Mauldin was awarded Hero of the Battle for the Bastogne rotation for her role as the brigade planner in the operations cell. This time she was able to plan and execute against a near peer friendly threat on the enemy side.
It was an awesome growth opportunity for leaders on all levels,” Mauldin said.
It’s rare Soldiers get to act as if they were the enemy in a training environment, especially with the opportunity to play that vital role at JRTC to help prepare American troops to defend this country in any environment. Yet, Mauldin was most proud of her company executing this mission with such excellence and enthusiasm after just returning from JRTC in September.
“After having only recently returned from the September rotation as the rotational unit, it was a rough ask to have everybody leave their Families again for another month,” she said. “Their toughness and resilience inspire me.”
Topics101st Airborne Division, 1st Battalion 506th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 506th Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Fort Campbell KY, Fort Polk LA, Joint Readiness Training Center, Red Currahee
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