Friday, September 9, 2011

IBOLC Week 13-15: LEADER FORGE

Ok so I know it's been a minute, but I think I am now able to put down on (paper) how those weeks went without going on a fifty page rant. Week 13 was all OPORD so nothing new there.

Week 14-15 was all Leaders Forge, a 10-day transformative process that will make a "real" leader out of Lieutenants. Here's the breakdown:

Day 1 (Monday): Trans to live fire range. We didn't do anything all day. To make up for doing nothing, the cadre came up with a hip-pocket STX lane. Hip-pocket is the professional term for "made up on the spot." We ran a lane and then sacked out for the night.

Day 2(Tuesday): Prepare for the Live Fire Exercise (LFX). This meant that we sat around all day, and then for about three hours near dusk we did some dry-runs of of the LFX. I was one of the 240 gunners so I lugged that 30lbs weapon around all that day. Lugged it around for four days straight, actually.

Day 3(Wednesday): LFX. I can't remember when we did the blank fire run. It might have been Day 2. In any case, Day 3 was doing the LFX and then trans to FOB Voyager, where we spent the night preparing for the next four days in the field, the time that most people consider the real Leader Forge.

Day 4-8(Thursday-Sunday): We were basically on the clock for 24 hours a day. We would do a mission, and then set up a Patrol Base (basically a "homebase" while we prepared for the next mission). Patrol Bases never go below 33% security, even during rest time, which means that for every three people, one is pulling security. The night time was spent trompsing through the woods with our night vision goggles on. Let me tell you: it's not as cool as it looks. You can't see the ground in front of you, your depth perception is all askew, your eye protection glasses fog up so you can't see anything, your night-vision goggles fog up, too... a 1 kilometer movement in the day takes about 25 minutes, maybe 30. At night it takes more like an hour to an hour and a half, depending on how thick the vegetation and the route you're taking. And of course we have our rucksacks and heavy weapons, ammo, and tripods as well.

We didn't sleep, we barely ate, and we ran missions constantly. On the fourth day, we headed back to FOB Voyager around 5pm-ish.We got showers and had an MRE and turned in for the night.

Day 9(Monday): We woke up at 6am and prepared until about 4 or 5 pm for the next day's mission. At that time we went to bed.

This day actually felt... real. Everyone was preparing for the next day's mission: a Company Soft Knock. Basically, our company would roll up on a village, get security around the village, and then do a cordial search of the village for weapons and enemy. If we could find the leader, we would meet with him as well and work on relations.  If there was any resistance, it would turn into a hard-knock: a forceful search and clear of the village.

The whole day was spent cleaning weapons, prepping gear, doing rehearsals, getting ammo, loading rucksacks, and just generally getting ready. It felt very real, and very cool. I think the thing about this mission was the level of planning that obviously went into it. It wasn't some hip-pocket mission for all 170 of us to do at once. Besides that, everyone knew that they had to preform perfectly or screw the other platoons. If 1st Platoon didn't get the security set, and enemy rode into the village, then 2nd Platoon would suffer for it. Everyone took the preparation seriously and for a moment I felt like I was in the real Army. And I liked it.

Night 9-Day 10(Monday night to Sunday day): We woke up Monday night at 10pm and got ready to move. We had to walk to the village, which was 16 miles away from us. So we finished packing our rucks, rubbed the sleep out of our eyes, and began the arduous march to McKenna. Turns out the ruckmarch was about 20 miles after some wrong turns and bad planning. But we made it to McKenna with no fall-outs: an amazing feat considering some of the guys in our platoon. Some people really surprised us during that march. And make no mistake: every step after about mile 4 sucked. Hard.

Day 10(Sunday): We executed the company mission perfectly. The cadre were very impressed (and surprised) at how well we preformed. I thought everything about the mission was professionally done, from the cadre's planning, to the students' planning and execution.

And thusly we were FORGED.

There's more to the story, but that will be for my next post. It's all about WEAPONS CLEANING OMG /WRISTS.

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