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In Kuwait, 1st ID Trains For Convoy
Steve Liewer
Stars and Stripes
European Edition

March 6, 2004

CAMP NEW YORK, Kuwait — An Army convoy snakes along a dusty desert road. Suddenly, there's a flash and a bang. A hidden explosive knocks out a Humvee and badly injures a soldier.

For Iraq-bound 1st Infantry Division troops now training in Kuwait, the scenario was fake.

Next time, all of them knew, it could be for real.

All week, troops at Camps New York and Udairi have been trekking to a remote firing range for three days of convoy live-fire training. Special Forces and Army Ranger veterans from the military contractor MPRI taught Big Red One soldiers how to handle themselves if their convoy is ambushed, using lessons learned by other units in Iraq.

"This is the last major training event these guys are going to receive before the road march north," said Staff Sgt. James Gibson, 29, of Portland, Ore., master gunner for the 1st ID's Task Force 1-77. "Everything we've done in Kuwait has built up to this right here."

The first two days at the range involved a combination of classroom work in tents and outdoor drills, Gibson said, including close-quarters marksmanship, shooting from a stationary vehicle and recovery of damaged vehicles while under fire.

The last day was the soldiers' final test. Sixteen-vehicle convoys rolled through a firing range, where they used live ammunition to knock out green wooden pop-ups that simulated armed guerrillas while avoiding simulated civilians and houses. The convoys rolled through five engagements, then were hit by a mock explosive. The soldiers had to treat the "victims," call in a medevac helicopter and tow away the vehicle.

"We really got a chance to work on some new teachings," said 1st Sgt. Mark Oldroyd, 36, of Turtle Lake, Wis., the noncommissioned officer in charge of Task Force 1-77's Company B.

Convoy live fire isn't a typical part of training, but 1st ID added a drill into its "warfighter" training at the Grafenwöhr training area last fall.

Still, this was a first for many of the soldiers. Because the division has been cut and pasted into task forces that are structured differently from their brigades back home, most were working with people they didn't know well. It took place in wide-open desert instead of narrow wooded lanes.

"It was on a much larger scale [than at Grafenwöhr], and a much more target-rich environment," said Sgt. Richard Bazzell, 30, of Shreveport, La., a soldier in Company C of Task Force 1-77.

Soldiers learned that wielding a rifle in the tight confines of a truck or Humvee is difficult, even more so when the vehicle is moving.

"You learn what an unwieldy beast a convoy can be," said 2nd Lt. Lee Tate, 23, of Staunton, Va., also from Company C, Task Force 1-77. "You learn what it's like to shoot at 35 mph. You can't hit much, but you can hope to suppress [the attacker's gunfire]."

"I learned I wouldn't be a good gangster," Oldroyd joked later, "because I can't do drive-by shootings."

Soldiers took the exercise with an extra dose of seriousness. This is the last training before the division forms convoys for the trip to Iraq. Impatient to get on with their yearlong mission, they are excited and a little apprehensive about the trip.

"Finally, all the [training is] done. We can go up north," said Spc. Tyler Smith, 21, of Snohomish, Wash., an infantryman serving in Task Force 1-77's Company B. "If we're not taking it seriously by now, we're screwed."

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This article is provided courtesy of Stars & Stripes, which got its start as a newspaper for Union troops during the Civil War, and has been published continuously since 1942 in Europe and 1945 in the Pacific. Stripes reporters have been in the field with American soldiers, sailors and airmen in World War II, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Bosnia and Kosovo, and are now on assignment in the Middle East.

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Copyright 2004 Stars and Stripes. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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