Mortar section makes it happen despite living rough
Staff Sgt. Joseph Wilbanks,
1st BCT, 1st AD Public Affairs:
A rotation at the National Training Center is supposed to be tough. Conditions are harsh, limits are tested, and impossible odds become the norm for two weeks of difficult training.
The Soldiers who comprise the mortar section of A Company, 4th Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, are up to the challenge though and happy to show that challenge can be conquered.
The mortar section consists of two Strykers with a crew of five Soldiers per vehicle. These vehicles are equipped with a 120 mm mortar capable of hurling deadly fire with pinpoint accuracy as far away as seven kilometers.
What makes this mortar section stand out, however, is that they are manning both of those vehicles with only six Soldiers total and running 24-hour operations.
And if being at 60 percent strength and sleep-deprived was not enough, the Soldiers are pushed all the way to the edge of the forward operating base, living under a camouflage net by their vehicles and more than 500 meters from the nearest building.
The section chose to be out there so they will be more prepared for the mission, said Cpl. Brandon Walker, the mortar section sergeant. The section members run in shifts, with someone always awake in case of a fire mission.
With gear and weapons, a 500-meter walk over soft sand isn’t too appealing, so some creativity on Walker’s part was needed to decide who would retrieve ice or water for the other Soldiers of the section.
“Sometimes it’s whoever lost at cards or whoever screwed up the last time,” said Walker.
Constant winds have also presented a problem for the section.
“The net has blown down at least a dozen times,” said Pfc. Matthew Lizyness. “Once it blew down about six times in one day, but we just pick it up and start over.”
The whole team seems to have the same mindset as Walker and Lizyness: Roll with the punches and drive on in true infantry fashion.
“It’s pretty dang difficult out here running a three-man crew on each truck,” said Walker, “but so far we are making it. We haven’t turned down a mission yet.”
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