19 May 2009

3HBCT, 3ID completes Hammer Focus at Fort Benning

Soldiers assigned to Company C, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, file off a Blackhawk UH-60 helicopter and seek cover during a training exercise at the Selby Military Operations Urban Terrain Site at Fort Benning, Ga., May 6. The exercise allowed the Soldiers to simulate working with Iraqi security forces to secure the village from extremists.

Soldiers of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division completed Hammer Focus, the brigade’s largest field training event at Fort Benning, Ga., May 18.

The 30-day event employed all six of the 3rd HBCT’s battalions and allowed them to practice scenarios they may encounter during the brigade’s upcoming rotation to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. and future deployment overseas.
“Hammer Focus is like our Super Bowl,” said 1st Sgt. Quentin Fenderson, Company B, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment. “Since January, we have been going through everything from small-arms qualification, our gunnery tables and company level training exercises. Hammer Focus brings that all together.”

For the new Soldiers just coming to the brigade, Hammer Focus is their first real taste of what being deployed is like, said 1st Sgt. Heath Potteiger, Company A, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment.

“All that time in the field isn’t always fun, but I can see how far we have come,” he said. “The improvement has been clear. I saw our guys get better every day we were out there. Hopefully, that will continue to build until we deploy.”

The training, which focused on helping the Soldiers learn to work effectively with Iraqi Security Forces, was different from the training many of the brigade’s veterans had done in the past.
“One of the biggest highlights of the training was gearing our platoon sergeants and platoon leaders to work with the local security forces and let them take the lead,” said 1st Sgt. David Eastabrooks, Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment. “Back in OIF I (Operation Iraqi Freedom), there weren’t any Iraqi security forces. They were all disbanded. The fight has changed.”

Eastabrooks acknowledges that the new way of conducting operations relies more on interacting with other people and letting them do much of the work.

“We are gearing down from a kinetic fight and changing gears to working with imams (religious leaders), village elders, police chiefs and Iraqi colonels. That is a big adjustment for our veterans.”

Fenderson is happy with the way that the training went and is looking forward to the brigade’s NTC rotation.

“I think NTC will go great because of Hammer Focus,” he said. “I believe that about mid-way through NTC everything we are doing now will just be second-nature. I think this battalion, because of the training, is well ahead of where they were last year heading to Iraq.”

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