Monday, April 26, 2010

Sledgehammer Squads Square-off

Soldiers representing 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, start out on a five-mile march April 15, during the best-squad competition at Contingency Operating Site Kalsu, Iraq. The competition tested the teamwork and physical abilities of teams representing the Sledgehammer Brigade's six battalions.

Story by Pfc. Erik Anderson

COS KALSU, Iraq – Squads representing each of the six battalions that make up the 3rd Heavy Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division met at Contingency Operating Site Kalsu, April 15, to compete in a two-day event designed to test their strength and teamwork.

The first day represented traditional warrior tasks and drills with a surprise road-march to end the day. The following day, Soldiers squared-off in non-traditional events that brought some fun to the competition.

"Being in a combat zone, it is very important these Soldiers operate as a squad," said Sgt. Maj. Rick Hairston, 3rd HBCT. "The squad as a group is much stronger than any one individual can be."

Warrior tasks on the first day were completed in body armor, as if the squads were on patrol in the streets of Iraq.

The first event was a road march to an obstacle where teams carried a stretcher loaded with a simulated body weight. Teams traversed three trailers with the stretcher through a lane that required them to work together.

"It took teamwork, a lot of teamwork," said Spc. Derrick Hodges, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 203rd Brigade Support Battalion. "Running with the flak vests on, that is something new. You have to be ready."

Squads flipped two, 500-pound military tires end-over-end for 80 meters before moving on to a grenade-throwing station. The next task was a weapons assembly station, where they were given a pile of parts and assembled working firearms while timed for points.

"Teamwork is important because it is what combat is based on," said Spc. William Johnson, 203rd BSB. "Without your battle buddy to your left or to your right, you're no good."

Moving to the next obstacle, squads were presented with a standard resupply point, consisting of water cans, pre-packaged meals and ammunition. The task was to move the supplies over a six-foot-tall wall, carry them across a water-filled ditch, and deliver them to a waiting military vehicle.

"If they don't have leadership directing them, they won't accomplish it that quick," said Hairston. "But if they work towards the same goal, and understand what each other's strengths and weaknesses are, they will be able to move quicker."

After the supplies were loaded onto the truck, squads moved to the COS Kalsu pistol range and were awarded points based on accuracy.

Following the range, teams were given a much-needed rest until the next event, a five-mile road march.

During the march, teams pushed a disabled humvee and carried a loaded stretcher the final 100 meters.

"We are trying to make them work as a squad," said Hairston. "Making the leadership think about what they are going to do and how they are going to plan the attack to do the next event."

The second day of competition had the participants tossing horseshoes, shooting hoops, throwing footballs, and trying to hit a barrel with a softball after some very dizzying bat maneuvers, to earn points for their squads.

"It's basically teamwork," said Johnson. "You start as a team and it's up to the team whether you are close-knit enough to actually finish as a team."

After the dust settled and the points were tallied, the squad representing 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment took top-squad bragging rights.

"I'm really proud of my guys," said Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Moore, 1st Bn., 15th Inf. Regt. "They worked hard and they deserve it."

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