Sgt. Mark Miranda, 4th Bde. 1st Armored Div.

Soldiers from A and C Companies of 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment staged themselves Feb. 9 at Range 62 near Fort Bliss, Texas to participate in an exercise dubbed Operation Broadsword. In preparation for its NTC rotation, crews of its M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles utilized MILES gear and squared off against role-playing “opposition forces.”

Soldiers from 1st Bn., 77th Armor Regt. wear Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System (MILES) gear for their run through a platoon certification exercise at Feb. 9 at Range 62.

“These Platoon Certification Exercises (CERTEX) lets leaders exhibit fire control and distribution. We test them on their ability to integrate direct and indirect fires,” said Capt. Matthew Ostergaard.

“It’s also a test of their troop leading procedures,” added Ostergaard.

Completing certification exercise on McGregor Range from Feb. 1-17, brings 1st Bn., 77th Armor Regt.’s units a step closer to being capable to perform its wartime missions. The certification exercises are part of Operation Broadsword, a scheduled late-winter exercise that provides valuable training for all battalions of 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division. 

Bradley Fighting Vehicles stage at Range 62 for 1st Bn., 77th Armor Regt.’s platoon certification exercises Feb. 9 as part of 4th Bde. 1st Armored Div.’s Operation Broadsword.

As part of the certification, the unit simulated a deployment and convoyed to McGregor Range; it set up an operations command post and conducted operations with other units participating in the exercise.   

Throughout the exercise, Bradley crews and infantry teams worked together to demonstrate their ability to coordinate efforts with each other, just like they would in a real-world deployment. Sister companies of 1-77 Armor ran a live-fire exercise on Range 63 and a situational training exercise on Range 72.

“The STX incorporates three key training events,” said Capt. Michael Settembre, a battalion liason officer for 1st Bn. 77th Armor Regt.

“Soldiers run through the course in an urban setting, first reacting to an improvised explosive device; they encounter the IED on their way to a key leader engagement,” said Settembre.

Pv2 Matthew Lawson, a Soldier assigned to A Company, 1st Bn. 77th Armor Regt. drives an M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle during platoon certification exercises on Feb. 9 at Range 62.

Once in the key leader engagement phase, unit commanders meet with role players acting the part of local population leaders such as town mayors, tribe elders, governors, or police and military officials. Foreign language and other cultural barriers add realism in gaining cooperation of the locals, simulating conditions how units will operate in theater.

“Once the key leader engagement is finished, the unit follows a lead based on any intel gathered from the KLE. On their way to the next location, they make enemy contact, and are then put in a casualty evacuation training scenario,” said Settembre.

Units of 4th Bde., 1st Armored Div. will continue with exercises this week and are in preparation for the Highlander Brigade’s rotation to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.


Spc. Marcos Del Valle, 4th Bde. 1st Armored Division

Medics with the 4th Special Troops Battalion proved themselves in the first week of the 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division platoon certification exercises by caring for Soldiers facing extreme cold weather conditions.

After an initial disinfection of the wound, Spc. Misty Rederstorf prepares an anesthetic for Staff Sgt. Robert Sacchitella, who required a suture after injuring his leg on concertina wire Feb. 2.

“With over 2,700 Soldiers in the field, the actual number of cold related injuries was five, with three returning to duty and two kept back for precautionary measures. This is a testament to our junior leaders, the young sergeant, who is checking their Soldiers, and our great medics who take care of us,” said Col. Scott McKean, commander of 4th Brigade 1st Armored Division.

Taking the opportunity to train, 1st Lt. Joseph Bongiorno, a physician assistant with 4th Special Troops Battalion explains some of the principles of setting a good suture for the unit’s combat medics before performing one on an actual injury.

The Medics in their Aid Tent were ready for anything to come their way. Things didn’t stay quiet for long, as a Soldier came in at noon Feb. 2 with an injury needing a suture.
Staff Sgt. Robert Sachitella, a Soldier assigned to A Company from Lancaster, S.C. had cut himself deeply in the center of his left shin.

“I wasn’t paying attention and walked right into a concertina wire barrier,” said Sachitella.

The Medic treating him was Spc. Misty Rederstorf, from Cumberland Ind., who was being overseen by the physician assistant, 1st Lt. Joseph Bongiorno.

The procedure started with the cleaning of the wound, followed by numbing it.
“The next thing we do is begin to reseal the open wound,” said Rederstorf.

Several of the company’s medics were there in observance for the purpose of training.

Fort Bliss Commanding General Maj. Gen. Dana Pittard visited the Aid station the following day escorted by 4th STB Commander Lt. Col. Samuel Hales.
Hales insisted that the STB medics were the best medical team on all of Fort Bliss Texas.

“If I were to receive a combat-related injury, I would feel confident in my medics’ capable hands,” said Hales.

The 4th STB’s medics are trained to provide first aid and frontline trauma care on the battlefield.
They are also responsible for providing continuing medical care in the absence of a readily available physician, including care for disease and battle injury.

Combat medics are normally co-located with the Soldiers they serve in order to easily move with the troops and monitor ongoing health.

Lt. Col. Jeffrey Merenkov gives the safety thumbs-up for the next team to begin their run through the clearing course after ensuring the group understands all safety precautions Feb. 3.

Sgt. Mark Miranda, 4th Brigade 1st Armored Division    

Spc. Jeffrey Litherand, a scout with C Troop 2nd Squadron, 13th Cavalry, leads his team on approach to a breach point.


Fort Bliss is not known for its capacity to conduct cold weather training, but for cavalry scouts of 2nd Squadron, 13th Cavalry regiment running through the “shoot house” at range D it was an added opportunity on top of a requirement to train on core competencies. “I’m proud of how our Soldiers overcame adversity and looked for opportunities, not obstacles,” said Col. Scott McKean, Commander of 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division of the harsh conditions. Combining extreme cold temperatures that shut down Fort Bliss for two days with the added risk involved with live ammunition exercises made the supervision aspect of troop leading procedures vital. “We remind our Soldiers that there are catastrophic life changing consequences that can result from one poor decision, one unsafe act,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Merenkov, Commander, 2nd Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regiment. All of the safety precautions for the shoot house training were overseen by range safety noncommissioned officers and observer-controllers.

McKean and Merenkov were joined by Fort Bliss Commanding General Maj. Gen. Dana Pittard to observe the training. “Training like this is very helpful,” said Maj. Gen. Dana Pittard, commanding general of Fort Bliss. “You’ve got to train in the kind of conditions that you’ll see when deployed.

Fort Bliss Commander Maj. Gen. Dana Pittard joins Col. Scott McKean at Range D for an opportunity to observe a 2nd Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regt. live fire training exercise for the upcoming platoon certification exercise Feb. 3.

As more of the world’s population moves into an urban environment, so will the majority of battles will be fought in urban areas including current theaters of operation such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Soldiers have to train for the possibility of having to enter buildings, positively identify friend or foe, and act accordingly. “In shoot house training, Soldiers are provided with weapons such as an M4A1 assault rifle or M9 pistol along with flash-bang grenades on certain occasions,” said observer-controller Staff Sgt. Gary Estrada, a scout with Headquarters Troop.

“We’re advised friendly targets are inside, and the targets are changed up after each run through the course,” said Pfc. Lucio Martinez, a scout with C Troop from Fabens, Texas. For scouts, the shoot-house tests their core competencies. Soldiers must proceed through each room and identify and clear any enemy targets, first with blank fire ammunition for a rehearsal run. The scouts then conduct the course using live ammunition. The Squadron has a credo to “always take care of your Soldiers, your families and each other” and shoot house training especially emphasizes the need to train, and to train safely.

“We will continue to train hard as we owe our Soldiers every opportunity and skill that will prepare to keep them alive and come back home safely. We don’t get to choose the conditions where our mission may be, whether 120+ degrees in Baghdad or sub-zero temps in the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan. We have tough and resilient Soldiers,” said Mckean.

4/1 AD Commander COL McKean discusses specifics of an upcoming live-fire training exercise with 2-29FA commander LTC Bolen and 2-13 CAV commander LTC Merenkov.

Overseeing six battalions as they operate in the field environment is a daunting but necessary task, and the 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division relies on the abilities of its leaders to ensure that things run smoothly. Everything from safely leaving East Fort Bliss, emplacing equipment and life support in a remote location, and ensuring Soldiers are taken care of in harsh weather conditions made it necessary for leaders to rapidly adjust and make the appropriate decisions. Priority of work called for units to find the balance between setting up mission-essential equipment with ensuring Soldiers are taken care of. “For example, communications are vital when you think about having the ability to call in a medical evacuation,” said Brigade Commander Col. Scott McKean. Following the first two days of setup, McKean and Brigade Command Sergeant Major Philip Pandy circulated the training environment and checked on individual units such as 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment and the 123rd Brigade Support Battalion to see firsthand that the Highlander Soldiers were ready for the next weeks of field training exercises.

Brigade CSM Philip Pandy checks his Blue Force Tracker during a visit with 1-77 Armor at McGregor Range Feb. 2.

“Do units have what they need to sustain themselves such as fuel and water? Is the rest cycle in place, how often are Soldiers on roving guard pulled in to warm up – these questions need to be asked, the appropriate procedures need to be in place to ensure we’re operating safely,” said Pandy. Brigade planners met with battalion leadership from 2nd Battalion 29th Field Artillery, 2nd Squadron 13th Cavalry and 4th Special Troops Battalion among others convened around a terrain model at McGregor Range to discuss specifics of live fire training. It was also an opportunity to discuss upcoming training events such as key leader engagements, where unit commanders will meet with Arabic-speaking role players portraying tribal leaders and town mayors. The goal of these key leader engagements is to try and establish working relationships between the units and the local populace in the theater of operations.

SSG Reginald McMeins Jr. NCOIC of medical platoon for HHC 1-77 Armor works outside of the battalion aid station set up at Mcgregor Range Feb. 2.

Highlanders take to the field for training

4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division

Soldiers of 4th Special Troops Battalion set up workspace and living tents Feb. 1 at McGregor Range.

Over 2,200 Soldiers of the 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division left East Fort Bliss on Jan. 31 to take part in weeks of platoon certification exercises and to prepare for the upcoming challenges of the brigade’s rotation to the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif. Since the Brigade’s return from Southern Iraq in May 2010, “Operation Broadsword” is the first field training exercise to include all of the unit’s battalions, and is especially vital for all personnel that have come into 4/1 AD over the past year. Field training exercises of this nature encompass “mini-battles” which provide fairly realistic training scenarios and situations based on actual situations a unit might face when deployed. Windy and cold weather conditions greeted the units emplacing their equipment and life support areas in remote locations outside of Fort Bliss. Snow and ice conditions that shut down El Paso did not prevent these Soldiers from their missions. “It’s the coldest I’ve ever seen El Paso, but the hot meals and having heaters in the tents helps,” said Spc. Ephraim Schoephoerster, a chaplain’s assistant assigned to 123rd Brigade Support Battalion.

Soldiers of 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division take a break for a hot meal at a mobile kitchen trailer in the field Feb. 2.

Brigade leaders were responsible for ensuring Soldiers were taken care of. “Down to the junior leaders they’re charged with making sure our Soldiers are conducting personal hygiene, hydrated, eating to be less susceptible to cold and checking ears, fingers, nose and toes for frostbite,” said Brigade Commander Col. Scott McKean. Standing up signal, communications, medical support and other initial preparation over the first week will set conditions for ranges, certifications and live-fire exercises in a battle space that includes McGregor Range, White Sands and Dona Ana Range. “Coming out here and setting up is (demanding), but I’m looking forward to some good training,” said Spc. Garrett Britton, a fire support specialist assigned to the brigade fires and effects coordination cell. The training scenarios are planned out, usually without disclosing plans or other information to company-level officers and their noncommissioned officers. This makes the situation more unpredictable and realistic since company and platoon level leaders make the majority of quick and immediate decisions on the battlefield.

Soldiers of 4/1 AD wake up to cold weather conditions in the field at McGregor Range Feb. 2.

Though there is a shortage of down time, taking care of Soldiers and unit business continues as well. The true professionalism of the Highlander Brigade remains while in the field. In many aspects continuing Garrison Operations, Soldiers are still taking care of business with administration and preparing for promotions as well. “Before things pick up speed, I’m going to a promotion board here (in the field),” said Sgt. Jonathan Blanton, an infantryman with 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment. Soldiers of 4/1 AD will redeploy from the field before the last week of February.

Article/Photos by: 2nd Lt. Scott Olson, 2nd Sqdn 13th Cav, 4th Bde, 1st Armd Div.

Soldiers from 2 PLT C Troop, 2nd Sqdn. 13th Cav. Regt. observe as leaders demonstrate how to conduct Battle Drill 6 at Range D on Jan 27.

Leaders from 2nd Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regiment conducted room clearing training at Range D located adjacent to the Ft. Bliss Rod & Gun Club on Jan. 27. 

The training focused on standardizing the battle drill 6 (room clearing) procedures for the squadron by certifying the Troop Commanders and 1st. Sgts to further train their Soldiers.

In order to become proficient at battle drill 6, a Soldier must understand his role in the team as well as those of his teammates.

On Jan 27, leaders focused on different techniques for maintaining proper formations, constant communication and transitioning from numerous danger areas. 

Lt. Col. Jeff Merenkov, Squadron Commander, gives his intent for the training to the squadron's Troop Commanders and First Sergeants at Range D on Jan. 27.

When asked the importance of room clearing, 1SG David Sanchez of Headquarters Headquarters Troop, the primary instructor for the training replied, “It is an important battle drill because whether you are in an urban environment, woodland, or desert, the only difference is the terrain. It will help Soldiers overcome their nervousness of firing at close quarters and train them to cover each others’ backs.”

Leaders of 2nd Sqdn. 13th Cav. Regt. practice breaching and room clearing at Range D on Jan 27 during the Battle Drill 6 Leader Certification.

CSM Dennis Bellinger, the Squadron Command Sergeant Major stated, “I believe the proper execution of Battle drill six is imperative to the success of our platoons who may be required to kill, capture or force the withdrawal of all enemies in a building.  Mastery of this battle drill, builds teamwork, and the synchronizations of fires at the lowest level.  I have happily observed the confidence that my junior enlisted soldiers achieve in their weapon systems and the unyielding trust they gain in their Noncommissioned officers and Leaders.”

Lt. Col. Jeff Merenkov, the Squadron Commander, emphasized the importance of conducting leader training on Battle Drill 6 in preparation for live fire training.  “Training and certifying the leaders is the second step in the 8 Step Training Model.  Too often we skip this critical event due to time constraints or poor planning. We set aside time to do this because it is important that a common standard is established and enforced for a training event like fire team live fire exercises. It sets a foundation as the unit prepares for platoon and troop level live fire training. It also instills Soldiers’ confidence in their leaders and builds a stronger team at all levels.”

Leaders of 2nd Sqdn. 13th Cav. Regt. practice Battle Drill 6 at Range D on Jan. 27.

At the conclusion of the training, 2nd Platoon C Troop witnessed the culmination of the leader training.  In the upcoming weeks, the Squadron will continue to certify more fire teams in preparation for NTC and future deployments.

Sgt. Mark Miranda, 4th Brigade 1st Armored Div. Public Affairs

Immediate first aid is essential on a widely spread and changing battlefield to prevent soldiers from dying of wounds when located far-forward. Medical personnel may not be able to reach and apply emergency medical treatment to all wounded soldiers at all points on the battlefield in a timely manner.

Pvt. Jim Perez applies pressure to a simulated wound to help control bleeding as Pfc. Kevin Barrett applies a tourniquet.

The combat lifesaver is a nonmedical soldier trained to provide advanced first aid/lifesaving procedures beyond the level of self-aid or buddy aid. The CLS is not intended to take the place of medical personnel, but to slow deterioration of a wounded soldier’s condition until medical personnel arrive.

The 123rd Brigade Support Battalion hosted a Combat Lifesaver course for Soldiers throughout 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division Jan. 18-21.

“The CLS is a secondary mission for Soldiers, taken on only when the tactical situation permits,” said Spc. Anthony Perez, a medic from Hondo, Texas assigned to C Company, 123rd BSB.

 “Even though this is secondary to his primary mission, a CLS can prove to be very effective in saving wounded Soldiers’ lives.”

Soldiers navigate obstacles to evacuate a casualty through a training lane as part of 123rd Brigade Support Battalion’s Combat Lifesaver Course Jan. 21.

Combat Lifesavers are a bridge between the self-aid/buddy aid training provided all soldiers and the medical training given to the trauma specialist. The CLS is given additional first aid training and training in selected medical tasks such as initiating an intravenous infusion and providing limited care to a soldier suffering from burns or fractures.

“In the course we focus primarily on HABC – hemorrhaging, airway, breathing, and circulation. We make head to toe assessments when we evaluate casualties,” said Pfc. Markus Stroke, a human resources specialist from Las Vegas, Nevada.

 After a week of instruction, students form teams and run through a training lane dressed in full field gear with aid bags and simulation weapons, where they encounter not only “casualties,” but opposition forces as well. The students are evaluated on how they perform in areas including tactical combat care, field care and tactical evaluation care.

Soldiers of 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division taking a combat lifesavers course hosted by 123rd Brigade Support Battlion run through a tactical evacuation care training lane Jan. 21.

“The training lanes are tough, mentally and physically demanding,” said Pfc. Shelton Jordan, a signal support systems specialist from Virginia Beach, Va.

“The instructors do a great job of creating the battlefield stress – yelling if you’re moving too slow, treating the ‘casualties’ roughly or anything else you’re doing wrong,” added Stroke. “But it’s all part of the training – a real situation would be even more stressful.”

Aside from basic casualty evaluation, airway management and controlling bleeding, CLS Soldiers train to become proficient with the procedures used for requesting medical evacuation.