Seabee Rodeo Hones Combat Skills, Fosters Camaraderie

Story Number: NNS031125-07Release Date: 11/26/2003 6:55:00 AM
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By Journalist 2nd Class Leslie A. Shively, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 22 Public Affairs

CAMP BULLIS, Texas (NNS) -- Seabee Reservists added some fun to practicing their combat skills with a training rodeo at a four-day mini-field exercise (minifex) at Camp Bullis Nov. 6-9.

But instead of riding horses and bulls or roping calves, some 60-plus members of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 22 scaled walls, crawled through trenches and practiced lifesaving skills.

Dubbed Operation Silver Spur, Seabees from Corpus Christi, Harlingen and San Antonio attended a round-robin series of classes on emergency medicine techniques, convoy evacuation under fire, weapons and communications equipment familiarization, land navigation, and the code of conduct and ethics in war.

After classes concluded, training stations became tasking stations, and Seabees teamed up to compete against each other by completing tasks or answering questions related to recent instruction, followed by a run through an obstacle course.

"Tasks included first-aid, where they would do a look, listen and feel," explained Construction Electrician 2nd Class John Orona, who assisted with planning the minifex. "There were 13 stations to complete in the rodeo."

"There were prizes, and it was very motivating," said Ensign Nathan Forystek, officer-in-charge of the San Antonio detachment that planned and hosted the minifex.

"The two years I've been at the battalion, this is, without a doubt, the best training evolution I've seen," said Ensign Randell Buchanan, Delta Company commander and air detachment officer-in-charge. "We've been able to integrate some needed training and a fun obstacle course."

Forystek explained the exercise was part of NMCB-22's military training year. Seabees train in four-year cycles, starting with the "T-year," when members receive in-rate training. This year is the "M-year," during which tactical drills and patrols are emphasized.

Many of the tasks during the rodeo stressed first-aid because emergency medicine is an essential part of tactical maneuvers, according to Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SCW) Lori McIntyre, who taught first-aid, safety and field sanitation during the minifex.

"As a first responder, they need to know how to take care of (themselves and shipmates) until help can get to them or they can get help," McIntyre said.

Other skills taught during the minifex included learning how to load and unload troops and equipment from convoys under hostile fire, which is especially important in light of the situation overseas right now, said Utilitiesman 1st Class Raymond Mendez, NMCB-22's training petty officer.

"I try to stress to the troops that this convoy class and everything else is very important to us," Mendez said.

"There is a certain procedure to off-load the vehicle, especially if you're carrying weapons. You protect the troops that are still on the vehicle, if you have that kind of chance," Mendez said, explaining that instructors taught the convoy class as if they were in Iraq.

He said right and left ambushes and repeat ambushes were staged, as well as what to do in the event the vehicle runs over a mine.

Weapons classes covered the disassembly, cleaning and reassembly of M16s and included hands-on familiarization with an M249, a lightweight machine gun and the M203, a 40mm grenade launcher that attaches to the M16.

Communications classes covered setting up and talking over the one-one-nine radios, the TA12 field phones and other equipment.

The land navigation exercises were quite challenging, according Chief Construction Electrician Mike Dempsey. They used a method where a runner or "rabbit" is tracked using a compass.

"We stepped off about 1530, and (the scenario) lasted until dark. It was really tough slogging through the cedar. The brush is heavy enough to where, if your rabbit is more than 20-30 meters out, you've lost it," said Dempsey.

"It's a real world scenario, because there are a lot of places the Seabees are in right now where there's not a big tree or a big mountain to reference off of - there's sand," said Buchanan, who believes teaching Reservists in the field is better than in the classroom.

"Being able to touch things - dealing with the cold and the rain, some realistic scenarios - you can't beat this kind of training."

Buchanan also believes training in the field fosters team building. "The training itself is fun. You're out here, you're learning something new. The camaraderie is great. I'd like to see it over and over again."

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