War on Terrorism

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

National Guard Cavalry Soldiers stay focused

By Army Staff Sgt. Patrick Caldwell
77th Sustainment Brigade

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq (5/16/11) – It is an adversary that cannot be seen or touched, but the Citizen-Soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment, 77th Sustainment Brigade, 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command have spent a lot of time developing ways to combat complacency while deployed here.

“When units do routine missions, Soldiers are over the process of learning new tasks,” said Army Lt. Col. Phil Appleton, commander of the 3rd Battalion. “They can get complacent about executing routine things routinely.”

Appleton said the fight against complacency is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week campaign.

But exactly what does it mean to fight complacency? The question sparks an array of different answers from the Soldiers and officers of the 3rd Battalion. All of the responses, though, revolve around typically mundane tasks that, added together, keep Soldiers alive.

Appleton said he considers the fight against complacency one of the most important clashes for the 3rd Battalion.

A good first step Appleton said he instituted was to bring his junior leaders together and discuss methods to tackle complacency.

“I energized the company commanders to increase the expectations of leaders,” Appleton said.

For Appleton, the basics such as pre-combat checks and pre-combat inspections are crucial. But in the end he said it comes down to the first-line leader level.

“Leaders have to get engaged,” he said. “Leaders can’t get complacent. They can get complacent, me included. But you brainstorm things that could go wrong and start putting a plan together to mitigate it.”

For the 3rd Battalion, the battle against complacency begins at the lowest level – the convoy escort teams.

Army Staff Sgt. William Childs, a convoy escort team commander for Company Alpha, 3rd Battalion, said the effort to quell complacency boils down to the fundamentals of soldiering. The focus on preparation and repetition pay off for Childs’ convoy escort team.

“We run battle drills,” he said. “Even in the middle of the day I will have them grab some shade then talk me through it so I know it is second nature.”

Pre-combat inspections are critical, Childs said.

“I like doing PCIs as a surprise so they don’t know what I will hit on that day,” he said.

Key items make the difference, Childs said. Such potentially tedious actions, such as checking to see if ammunition is clean, pay dividends outside the wire.

“It is always a constant battle. It is an every day thing,” Childs said.

He also said he is fortunate because the Soldiers in his escort team are curious and want to know how best to prepare for work out on the roads of central Iraq.

Army Staff Sgt. Allen Iverson, a CET commander with Company Delta, 3rd Battalion, said one method he utilizes in the CET he commands is simple: Change crew positions.

“That is the easiest way to combat complacency,” he said.

Army 1st Sgt. Daniel Ishaug, the top noncommissioned officer for Company D, 3rd Battalion, said he and his men spend a lot of time finding ways to overcome complacency.

“It sneaks up on you,” Ishaug said.. “About the six-month mark is when you fight it the most.”

Ishaug uses another simple method to keep his Soldiers out of the complacency bubble: physical training.

Like Appleton, Army Capt. Seth Musgrove, the commander for Company Charlie, 3rd Battalion, said in the end the complacency fight is one that demands leadership.

“It takes a great deal of command emphasis and NCO execution to combat complacency,” he said.

However, Musgrove said, he isn’t comfortable using the word complacency.

“I try not to use the word but opt to use ‘mission-focused,’ he said. “We focus Soldiers on the basics, because that is where a lack of mission focus occurs.”

And, like Childs, Musgrove said spot inspections remain a crucial tool to defeat complacency.

“The important thing is to spot-check and inspect the work of Soldiers,” he said.

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