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Home : News
NEWS | June 28, 2012

West Virginia Army National Guard Special Forces unit hones its skills in training

By Sgt. 1st Class Matt Scotten Camp Atterbury

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"We deployed the battalion to Camp Atterbury in a special operations task force configuration, exactly the way the battalion is deployed overseas" said Sgt Maj. Tom Edmonds, operations sergeant major for 2nd Bn., 19th SF Grp. "Simultaneously, we had another company sized-element operating in Utah, allowing us to operate in sort of a 'hub-and-spoke' configuration"

According to Edmunds, the training objective was to train their Soldiers in all of their mission-essential tasks, breaking them all down into a deployment-like scenario, wherein the unit deploys to Atterbury and Utah, establishes an operational foot-print, conducts special operations, and then redeploys home.

"A lot of real-world scenarios were incorporated in our training here," said Army Staff Sgt. Justin Jones, an information systems analyst with the battalion. "Between setting up an operations center and a communications and signal center, having guys out in the field running missions and the information being relayed for out there in the field to us in the radio room and then to the guys in operations. It was really good training."

Not all training involved jumping right into running missions. Several Soldiers in the unit are young, new to the unit, new to the military and in some cases awaiting the schools for their occupational specialties. Because of this, many of the Soldiers started at square one, practicing very basic soldiering kills.

"We started with just basic marksmanship, and just built up from there," said Army Staff Sgt. Thomas Hungerford, a Special Forces communication sergeant, with the unit. "We moved on from there to stuff like tactical reloads, and then firing fully automatic, since our M4s can actually shoot in full auto."

Starting from basic marksmanship and moving from there to special operations specific skills in such a short time required more than just competent instructors. Soldiers were eager to learn. According to Hungerford, the training at Atterbury could never have been successful without the motivation and determination of the Soldiers being trained.

"These guys just absorbed the information like sponges," he said. "You can teach and preach skills all day, but these guys made the training happen. They wanted to train, they wanted to work hard and they really took ownership of the training."
And the training paid off.

"I really believe that compared to where they were when they got here, they are now a completely different product," said Hungerford. "It was because of their motivation and the way they took the information we gave them, and made it their own. We put them in uncomfortable situations and they had to figure it out as a team. It builds camaraderie."

In order to start at a basic skill level and end up at an advanced skill level when conducting special operations training requires considerable training facilities. With more than 30,000 acres of training area, and a vast variety of ranges, Camp Atterbury was well-suited to what the unit needed in order to meet all of their training objectives.

"Having the ability to use ranges and go through a process of crawl, walk, run was a huge benefit for us," said Hungerford. "For instance, you start with crew-served weapons on a simple flat range. Then, you mount them on a vehicle and slowly drive up and stop and engage a target. Then, you get to engage target while moving so guys really get the feel of the whole experience. These ranges provide us with the ability to train like that and take our Soldiers from a basic level to an expert level."

According to Hungerford, the Soldiers learned so much that he thinks they may be the best Soldiers he has ever served with.

"We fit about 50 pounds of information in a 10 pound bag, and it was because of our Soldiers' efforts that so much was able to get accomplished," said Hungerford. "I'm honored to be a part of this unit.