New York Army National Guard Cavalry Soldiers take to the water in Zodiac boat drill
August 12, 2014 —
FORT DRUM, N.Y.- Sixty Soldiers from C Troop of the New York Army National Guard's 2nd Squadron, 101st went boating on the waters of Fort Drum's Indian Lake on Sunday, as part of two weeks of annual training.
It was the first time the 101st Cavalry - the reconnaissance eyes and ears of New York's 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team - had done any tactical training with their inflatable rubber boats, said Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Jaskowiak, Troop C's readiness and training NCO.
In combat the squadron's scouts would be expected to use their rubber boats to slip across a river or lake to get eyes on enemy troops.
"Our job is to do long range reconnaissance," said C Troop commander Capt. Matt Lynch. "C Troop is a dismounted troop. Having the capability of waterborne insertion gives us another way to move Cavalry Scouts in ahead of the mounted Troops. It also gives us the access to terrain that was previously denied."
The boats are known as Zodiac boats, taking their name from a French airplane maker who first started building them in 1934.
It was training that the unit had planned to do for quite awhile, but deployments, individual active duty call-ups and state active duty missions kept them from getting Soldiers into the boats for training, Jaskowiak explained.
When Hurricane Irene hit New York in August 2011, causing massive flooding in the Catskill Mountains and along the Susquehanna River in the Binghamton area, New York National Guard leaders decided it would be a good idea if the 101st Cavalry troops learned to use the boats the unit had been issued, he said.
"It was after Hurricane Irene that the 101st initiated the lengthy training to get our Soldiers qualified to use the Zodiac boats." Jaskowiak said. "It started with getting everyone Red Cross life-saver certified and then we needed supplies and pool time so that each Soldier could do water training in order to know how to react should they be underwater with all their equipment on."
According to Jaskowiak, the 101st troopers did a lot of dry run and dry land training to get ready.
When the unit was ready for water training the City of Buffalo donated pool time at the Best Street Park there.
This type of training also produces added benefits, especially for commanders who are looking for ways to retain a core of Soldiers that will be able to be proficient and pass this type of skill set onto new Soldiers coming into the unit, Jaskowiak said.
Annual Training at Fort Drum provided a water obstacle the Soldiers could execute the kind of full-up tactical drill, using weapons, they couldn't do back home, Jaskowiak said.
"This is the kind of training that I joined the 101st for." said Spc. Joseph Golonka, of 2nd Platoon who was also steering his boat with his paddle while crossing the lake. "In order to maintain silence while rowing, each Soldier has to be in sync, at first it isn't easy but after the first time we just watched each other row and got more in tune."
While the 101st Cav troopers executed a tactical insertion via the boats, safety was a primary consideration.
A team from the New York Naval Militia - A New York state defense force made up of Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps Reservists who volunteer to do state missions in addition to their federal duty - provided a safety boat to over watch the operation. The Naval Militia sailors had brought of their 23-foot river patrol boats, but Indian Lake proved to be too shallow, so the 101st Cavalry went out and rented a flat bottom fishing boat to use as a safety vessel.
"Next year we hope to be ready to get certified from First Army so that we have the ability to train our own new Soldiers who come into the unit," Lynch said.
Ideally, his unit will work more boat training into their training program and obtain funding to purchase more boats and outboard motors that would make the boats more useful in responding to a natural disaster like the flooding which followed Hurricane Irene in 2011, Lynch said. More boats and motors would also allow quicker troop insertion in a tactical situation, he added.