An Inside Look at Nebraska Army National Guard Training
November 25th, 2014
Lincoln, NE – Six Nebraska Army National Guard soldiers kneel in a circle, pens and small note pads in hand, automatic rifles slung over their shoulders. Camouflage uniforms blend with the dense vegetation outside this river valley clearing.[audio:https://kvnonews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/guard-in-transition-part-2.mp3]
Private Tyler Waugh of the Omaha-based 754th Chemical Company explains that they are “getting ready to send up a UXO report. For IEDs or any type of unexploded ordinance that we have, we have to report it up to EOD.”
To translate, Waugh is talking about reporting a roadside bomb to explosives experts. Notes in one hand, a radio headset in the other, Waugh calls in his report. He passes this test, and moves on to another. It’s part of a busy Saturday of training for several Nebraska Army National Guard units.
At Camp Ashland, which straddles the Platte River, soldiers from the 754th also practice other communications tasks like calling in a medivac helicopter for an injured soldier and spot reports of enemy activity.
Up the road at a training facility outside Omaha, a half dozen soldiers from the Guard’s 402nd Military Police Battalion review a Humvee maintenance manual, then push the disabled two ton vehicle down a paved road. At the next station an instructor quizzes them on the signs of shock, while they give aid to a soldier who in this scenario has stepped on a land mine and lost her leg. When they finish, the instructor does a hotwash, an immediate evaluation.
“It went all right,” said Staff Sgt. John Ferguson, part of this group of soldiers from the 402nd. “We missed a couple things, but I guess that’s always going to happen. You remember stuff when you get ‘gigged on it’ more than you’re going to remember if you don’t.”
The soldiers are also scored on their performance for the Guard’s Best Warrior competition. Top performers from each unit advance to the state competition next spring. Ferguson, who’s from Ashland and has deployed twice to Iraq, said it’s a little harder for soldiers to be motivated for training once they’ve seen the real thing. This competition helps. “For me, I love competition,” Ferguson said, “so hopefully, and it should be for everybody to bring out the best in them to try and strive to get recognized or be like, ‘hey I’ve got good strengths here,’ and kind of help their team.”
“We do training every month,” said 1st Sgt. Adam Homan of Omaha, with the 754th Chemical Company training at Camp Ashland. “But the big thing with the competition is it kind of pushes them, it motivates them to train a little bit harder. It’s going to be a long day. They’ll be sore by the end of the day.”
An 18 hour day, designed to stress the soldiers physically and mentally.
At Camp Ashland, Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Tiede of Fremont gives a young soldier instructions at the spot report station. Here the soldier gets a minute to look at contents of a box filled with dirt, toy soldiers, plastic trees, a fence, then two minutes to call in a report about what he saw.
The minute passes quickly for the obviously-nervous soldier. Tired and under pressure, he finishes without much in his report.
With the calm demeanor of a veteran of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Tiede tells the young soldier what he should have seen and that he didn’t pass the task. “You’re a ‘no go’ at this station,” Tiede told him. “Make sure you train-up on this stuff. These are important things. Okay? Hey, keep your head up.”
Tiede says adding stress to training is important. “Without the stress then it just becomes a mundane task and they can do it without thinking,” Tiede said. “We want them to be able to do that, but we want them to be able to do it muscle-memory without thinking about it, under that stress. We’re trying to simulate the battlefield so they’re more ready when they get overseas.”
Because Tiede and many other battle-tested Nebraska Guard soldiers know from experience that these seemingly mundane tasks get a lot harder when bullets are flying and bombs exploding, and although few Nebraska soldiers are at war right now, that could change at any time.
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