Commander Lauds Combat Support His Soldiers Provide
By Carmen L. Gleason
American Forces Press Service
CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait, April 27, 2007 Although he’s proud of what his troops do in Kuwait, the commander of the 3rd U.S. Army and U.S. Army Central Command said today that what his troops do to contribute to combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan that is even more important.
As they sat a mere 15 miles away from the Iraqi border, Lt. Gen. Steven Whitcomb briefed 45 business and civic leaders who are participating in the Defense Department’s Joint Civilian Orientation Course. The group is visiting the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility to learn more about the capabilities of the U.S. military and the role American forces are playing overseas.
“While we can’t take you over to Iraq or Afghanistan, it doesn’t look different over here,” Whitcomb told the group. “This is a tough and unforgiving environment in which to operate.”
He said that 80 percent of his troops’ efforts are spent supporting the rotation of combat forces in the region. His soldiers also serve as a forward-based service component command to plan and, on order, conduct land operations across the Central Command area of responsibility.
On a daily basis, Whitcomb’s troops send more than 3,300 vehicles over 158 miles into Baghdad; they provide 3.3 million gallons of fuel to troops in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq; and they provide more than 780,000 meals to troops in the country.
Kuwait serves as the last stop for U.S. forces before they head into the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan. Here, they are able to spend two weeks preparing weapons and conducting last-minute refresher training.
The training is a final check for commanders, Whitcomb said. His trainers and ranges support the needs of the commanders while offering current and relevant training.
Whitcomb said his units also focus on teaching their peers to apply adaptive thinking to their missions, instead of telling them what to think and giving them static specifics.
“This is a smart, adaptive enemy; it’s not the first time,” he said, “but it’s something we have to stay ahead of.”
For example, these concepts are enforced when soldiers learn about the latest ways the enemy is hiding and detonating improvised explosive devices. Using cell-phone triggers or remote arming, the enemy can target U.S. soldiers, but through the training soldiers receive, they can learn the tell tale signs that will allow them to recognize and disarm the potential threat.
“Training in the United States is not different from training in Kuwait,” Whitcomb said. He said daily updates are reported from in theater back to Kuwait and bases back home that will allow for the ever-changing strategy of the enemy.
Soldiers going through Kuwait also have the opportunity to get refresher medical training provided by former Special Forces medic Brent Cloud.
For the last year, Cloud has helped provide realistic medical training to soldiers with specialized dummies that are complete with expandable lungs and flowing blood that can simulate a number of injuries that could occur on the battlefield.
For instance, his four-hour classes teach soldiers how to insert nasal pharyngeal into their injured buddy’s nose so that he or she can breathe in the event of a blockage. He teaches troops the best way to cut off body armor, how to best remove helmets and even how to do non-traditional, but effective, methods of stopping bleeding.
Although they may be pricey, Cloud said, the $40,000 dummies are worth every penny if training on them can result in saving even one life.
“I’m not going to be on the streets of Baghdad with them,” he said. “So I do whatever I can to help them learn how to assess injuries and take of their buddies themselves.”
Troops can also train on the Humvee egress assistance trainer to learn how to exit from a vehicle in the event of a rollover.
Increased armor additions have affected the weight of Humvees so that they have become top-heavy and can easily flip even when reaching a modest 25-degree incline.
The trainer helps soldiers learn how to effectively open the Humvee’s 700-pound door and exit even if the vehicle is upside-down. Since its inception in mid-2006, more than 24,000 soldiers have been trained, resulting in 40 percent fewer casualties and 60 percent fewer injuries.
“There is no way that was can eliminate the number of rollovers,” said Army Maj. Kevin Karr, Army Central Command operations officer. “But we can better train the soldier for the event of a rollover.”
As Whitcomb closed his briefing to the civilian guests on the installation, he praised his troops and their efforts in training and supporting those directly in the war effort.
“I’m just a soldier,” he said. “And it’s great to see Americans who want to come and understand what we’re doing here. It’s important to remember that these soldiers and civilians are just Americans who’ve stepped up to the plate for their nation.”