FORT PICKETT -- About 90 soldiers from Maryland’s 1st Battalion, 115th Infantry, 29th Infantry Division, spent part of their annual training supporting a Welch unit through an exchange program between the United States and the United Kingdom.
The 131-man company from the 3rd Battalion, Royal Welch Fusiliers, spent seven days in the woods with the 1/115th, learning the American way of assaulting and ambushing objectives. At the end of the training period, the fusiliers were certified to American standards in squad assault, ambush and enter and clear a building.
The fusiliers specialize in Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain (MOUT), which includes urban assault tactics and operations in developed urban areas. The MOUT site simulates an urban environment that includes buildings, streets, churches and other dwellings.
"The training is excellent ¾ these guys have laid on good stuff," said the Welch Company Commander Maj. Llewelyn Williams. "It (this training) enables different NATO units in this operation to get used to different tactics."
The 20-year TA veteran observed that more similarities than differences exist between American and British training. He said the biggest challenge for his company has been learning to operate in weather to which they are not accustomed. "The heat ¾ we don’t have anything in Wales like the temperatures here," said Williams. "We’ve had eight soldiers go down and we’ve learned to drink water like we’ve never drank before."
"They’ve been taking it at a slow pace for us because we aren’t used to the heat," said 2nd Lt. Chris Arvon-Jones, with the fusiliers.
The company, made up of three rifle platoons, a headquarters platoon and a reconnaissance section, has been working with the Maryland unit to learn the infantry tactics used by the Maryland National Guard unit. Although the Welch company’s primary expertise lies in MOUT, since their deployment to Fort Pickett for the 29th’s Annual Training Exercise, they’ve conducted assault and ambush operations as well.
Arvon-Jones said that there are some definite differences in the way Americans and the Welch units conduct ambushes. "An American ambush would be about five soldiers ambushing a whole platoon or company. A Welch ambush would be platoon-size or more," he said. The Welch fusiliers could use a linear ambush with as many as a battalion.
Members from Williams’ unit have brought their experiences from numerous conflicts to this effort. His soldiers have served in Northern Ireland, Desert Storm, Bosnia, Belize, Cyprus and other hot spots around the world. Fitting into the American unit’s mode of operations has not been a problem. "We all work to the NATO doctrine," said Williams. "It helps the company here to see there’s no major differences. We can slot into what they’re doing and we can become a larger force and work as a NATO alliance."
Spec. Michael Mosely from 1/115th has been training side-by-side with Williams’ troops. The Fort Washington, Md., native has been in the National Guard for six years. He said, "We’ve learned a few things about their tactics such as the way they set up their perimeter ¾ clear the terrain ¾ actually, their tactics are very similar to ours. This is the first time I’ve worked with soldiers from another country. With an experience like this, you learn different things about people ¾ like they like hot tea with their dinner. Their dialect ¾ slang ¾ is very different from ours, but they definitely like to have fun, which motivates."
After the train-up period, the 1/115th switched roles to play the enemy in a mock war scenario with the Welch unit. The attack began at about 4:30 a.m. with the fusiliers preparing to siege the MOUT site. The scenario unfolded as described below:
Attempting to move into the "city" from the surrounding woodline, the Welch soldiers were pinned in their location by a heavy barrage of M-60 gunfire from the opposing force which was defending the city’s perimeter. Sniper fire from abandoned buildings slowed forward movement by the four squad elements from the Welch company.
The M-60 gunner was taken out when two squads laid down a blanket of heavy fire while a third squad flanked the gunner crew from the side. With the gunner dead, the four squads moved to enter and clear the first building.
Despite being harassed by sniper fire as they moved from building to building, the Welch soldiers continued clearing a path to their objective ¾ City Hall. The fusiliers ducked into a culvert and set up their M-60. This edge in firepower, and the heavy casualties suffered by the smaller opposing force, enabled the Welch to enter and secure the building and achieve final victory. Amid shouts of jubilation, they posted the Regimental flag from the rooftop.
Maryland First Battalion Executive Officer Maj. Michael Nacincik said, "The most valuable thing we’ve gained (from the training) is the exchange of infantry tactics between us and our NATO allies. The NATO doctrine is very similar with some minor subtleties. We have the confidence of knowing that our allied partners are on par with us. When you go into conflict, you want to know your allied partners can pull their weight and we’re confident they can."
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