Soldiers Earn Respect of Visiting Business Leaders
By Carmen L. Gleason
American Forces Press Service
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SWORD, Kuwait, April 27, 2007 A group of civic and business leaders had the opportunity to learn more about the capability of the U.S. Army during a visit yesterday and today to troops stationed in Kuwait.
Army Lt. Gen. Steven Whitcomb (right) briefs members of Joint Civilian Orientation Conference 73 on the mission conducted by soldiers on Camp Buehring, Kuwait, April 27, 2007. Whitcomb is the commander of U.S. Army Central Command. Camp Buehring is the last training stop for military members entering Iraq. U.S Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Forty-five participants of the Defense Department’s Joint Civilian Orientation Conference made a stop during their tour of the U.S. Central Command region to learn about the training and missions of today’s soldiers.
The group had the opportunity to go through the last-stop training soldiers get before continuing forward for deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, such as Humvee rollover training, medical emergency simulators and video game-like training for weapons qualification.
Although the drill provides realistic training that saves lives, the civilian participants seemed to enjoy every minute of it. Volunteers who were flipped 180 degrees in the mock hull of a Humvee cheered and laughed as they were spun around and had to successfully exit the vehicle.
“If I came across someone who was smiling and laughing after rolling their car, I’d know it was an alcohol-related incident,” JCOC participant Sterling Owen, who is the chief of police in Knoxville, Tenn., laughingly said.
“Seriously, this is outstanding training,” he said. “Any training received is good, because it teaches you not to panic in emergency situations.”
During the second day of their visit, participants rode with soldiers of the 89th Transportation Company during a tactical convoy exercise over an 11-mile route littered with improvised explosive devices, car bombs and other real-life scenarios that the soldiers face when in convoys in Iraq. These soldiers, who are stationed in Kuwait, routinely make the trek from Kuwait to Iraq to deliver supplies to troops forward stationed.
Members took turns riding in the gunner’s turret atop Humvees, where they were told to scan the horizon for possible threats that could break up the convoy and lead to casualties. After going through the exercise, they said they were reassured that soldiers receive such training before going into the combat zone.
“To me it was scary,” said John Hagestad, who is the managing director and owner of Sares-Regis Group out of Irvine, Calif. “You see all these littered cars along the way. I’d probably go nuts if I were a soldier thinking that everything out on the road was a bomb.”
Soldiers took time to show the guests the different types of improvised explosive devices used by insurgents, ranging from bombs hidden in piles of trash to ones camouflaged to look like street curbs. They were also shown the differences in bombs triggered by ground wires, ones set off my radio controls and others that require pressure to detonate.
“Before coming here I had never even heard the term ‘IED,’” said Bob Husband, president and chief executive officer of Heritage Golf Group. “This experience has been really enlightening. The soldiers are doing an amazing job. I’m looking forward to spreading the word to my family and employees.”
The group also had the unique opportunity of firing live rounds on numerous Army weaponry, including the M-4 carbine assault rifle, M-2 50 caliber machine gun, M-249 squad automatic weapon, M-240 machine gun and the M-107 sniper rifle.
“This was the most fun I’ve had all week,” said Keith Krach, who earned the moniker “Boom Boom” from his fellow participants following his successes on the firing line at the Udari Range, which is the size of the Great Salt Lake.
“I am so impressed with the discipline and leadership of the troops we saw this week,” Krach said. “They could easily go out and be (chief executive officers) in civilian organizations.”
Overall, members are coming away from the experience with a newfound respect for the men and women in uniform.
“I had no idea how hard this job was and miserable it is in terms of heat and fear,” said Amy Coen, the president of D.C.-based Population Action International. “Both the physical and psychological stresses could be overwhelming. I’m utterly impressed with our military.”