FORT BENNING, Ga. -- For the first time, the Army has invited Cavalry Scouts from across the nation to showcase their skills and vie for top honors with the Gainey Cup, an inaugural four-day competition kicking off Saturday. Three Army National Guard teams have already prepared for the challenges with a preliminary training event that began last week.Hosted by the Warrior Training Center, the training mirrors much of what will be included in the Gainey Cup. The eight-day event includes land navigation, weapons qualification, combat lifesaver tasks, an obstacle course, a six-mile road march and a scenario-based situational training exercise. The latter is the culminating event of the training and simulates a Scout reconnaissance mission, said Capt. Christopher Pegg, commander of D Company, WTC. The training wraps up Thursday. Friday, the Soldiers will report to the 316th Cavalry Brigade. Nearly 20 five-man teams are slated to compete this weekend. Three of those will represent the Army National Guard and their home states of Alabama, Georgia and Nevada. "I'm excited," said Spc. Sam Shuler, Georgia National Guard. "It's a lot of good training. We don't get to do this every day in the National Guard, so anything that gets us out in the wood line behind weapons and equipment is great." After a morning of land navigation and several hours in the rain, Sgt. Robert Chapman, Alabama National Guard, said the training offered a great opportunity for the Guardsmen to put into practice what they've learned. "There are some things we need to work on, and this is pointing that out," he said. "We can take this … back to our unit and we can adjust what we normally do to what we need to do. It highlights your weaknesses and your strengths so you know what you need to reinforce and you know what you need to sustain." The training competition focused not only on physical endurance, but also mental prowess. Classroom training covered troop-leading procedures, route planning and how to set up a helicopter landing zone. Soldiers also learned to identify more than 60 armored fighting vehicles. The vehicle identification was an area of difficulty for Sgt. Julian Batz and his teammates, who were more familiar with light Infantry vehicles. "We're not very proficient at it -- but we will be," he said. The training was already helping, said Batz, who traveled nearly 2,000 miles from Las Vegas to test himself in the inaugural competition. He finished Ranger School less than a month ago, so he was able to share his knowledge of the Fort Benning terrain and climate with the rest of his team. He also said he felt like the school better prepared him for the competition. "I think we're going to do fairly well," he said. "We have a couple areas we need to polish up on, but the staff down here at WTC are just dedicated to getting us what we need. So we're really focusing on our weak areas." Pegg said he knows that the Gainey Cup will be challenging, but he sees promise in bringing the Guardsmen to Fort Benning a week early for comprehensive training. "The big thing they're going to take away is a good understanding of what the Gainey Cup will present, understanding the Fort Benning environment and really having them set up for success," he said. "We're hoping to give them an opportunity to solidify their team. We definitely want one of our three National Guard teams to win. We're definitely striving for success."
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