Fort Eustis is home to the training brigades of 12 military occupational specialties. Thousands of Soldiers perfect their skills in aviation mechanics here before moving on to operational units around the world.
“Each Soldier who comes here [now] has the opportunity to experience a full 72-hour field training exercise,” said U.S. Army Major Robert Ozburn, Operations and Training officer in charge, 2-210th Aviation Regiment. “We want to remind them that they are, first and foremost, a soldier.”
Over the past two years, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command began enhancing the field training skills that Soldiers learn during Basic Training.
“This program adds additional rigor to the training. It is a chance for them to get out in the field, get dirty and remind themselves that they are warriors,” said Ozburn.
Throughout the 72 hours, Soldiers learn new tactics and have the opportunity to demonstrate and perfect application during a simulated Downed Aircraft Recovery Team (DART) mission on the last day.
“We send them through the grenade assault course and also integrate things like how to detect an IED [improvised explosive device], how to properly detain a civilian on the battlefield, and how to set up a defensive perimeter,” Ozburn explained. “The soldiers are motivated, they practice basic rifle marksmanship skills, moving rucksacks from place to place and eating chow in the field.”
All these details help prepare the soldiers for the day they join their new unit.
The non-commissioned officers leading the training volunteer to come out with their class and work with them through the course. Sometimes the students even have a chance to tackle or detain the instructors, depending on their simulated role in the training.
Soldiers received hot meals when time allowed and had MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) while on the move during the day.
“Chow time is when you could decompress, talk and chill for a second,” said U.S. Army Private First Class Elayna Balingit, 128 Aviation Brigade, Bravo Company. “Definitely great memories.”
During the nights, soldiers slept under the stars and took turns patrolling the perimeter of the camp they set up to keep their battle buddies safe.
On the third day, the DART mission began. Soldiers were divided into smaller groups and sent out to find and recover sensitive items from the simulated downed aircraft.
Along the way they found and overcame obstacles including IED’s, hostile civilians and difficult terrain.
“I loved the hands-on aspect of this training,” said Balingit. “This sharpens your skills and puts you out there more than just learning about it in a classroom.”
Members of the instructor team explained how new aspects are always being added to the course, directly from the ideas and suggestions of the students.
“We always solicit the soldiers’ feedback, we ask how we can make this better, how can we make this more realistic and more engaging,” Ozburn said. “We are always seeking to improve what we do here.”
The course’s instructors explained that they have the satisfaction of knowing the soldiers they train on this course will carry with them confidence that they are capable of moving out on a patrol, assisting with a DART mission, zeroing a weapon and many more valuable tactical skills.