***image1***Soldiers anxiously scanned the road outside their heavily defended perimeter as several Afghani civilians approached the razor-wired gate, waving frantically and shouting for help in broken English.
Leaders quickly assessed the situation as non-combatants seeking aid. Within minutes, Soldiers swept the group into the compound, attended to the wounded and detained the remaining civilians.
Just then, shots cracked from the windows of a van racing toward the compound as enemy gunmen attempted to blow the gate with explosives.
For Soldiers of the 29th Support Group, 21st Theater Support Command, this scene played out during their External Evaluation training exercise Oct. 12 to 19 in Mannheim, Germany.
The unit is preparing for a real-world deployment to Afghanistan in the coming months, where it will form a joint logistics command to manage all support operations in theater.
Comprising a headquarters element and the 191st Ordnance Battalion, the group is capable, among other things, of providing vehicle maintenance, ammunition and explosive ordnance handling and disposal, and theater-wide airdrop services.
Their teamwork will be especially crucial during their upcoming deployment, according to 29th SG Commander Col. Walter J. Sawyer.
“We’re getting ready for follow-on exercises with SETAF (Southern European Task Force), our higher headquarters,” Colonel Sawyer said. “We go off to Grafenwoehr in October for the Lion Challenge Exercise. So this is basically a prelude to a number of other training exercises we’ll have with SETAF before we go downrange.”
***image2***During the Exeval, training focused on dealing with civilians on the battlefield and all facets of tactical convoy operations.
“The eight-day situational training exercise illustrated just how fast situations can change on the battlefield, and magnified the importance of combat support Soldiers knowing how to handle them,” said Colonel Sawyer.
“Every Soldier is a Soldier first,” he said. “If we do not know how to defend and take care of ourselves in a combat zone, it will definitely have a negative impact on our overall mission.
“There will be movement outside the compound, so we want to make sure they understand that every time we go outside the gates it’s a combat mission. They need to be focused.”
That wasn’t a problem for Sgt. Michael Sonnenberg of 1st Platoon, 23rd Ordnance Company, 191st Ordnance Battalion, who helped repel the perimeter attack.
“This is great training, training we’ve all looked forward to. In the field, you get to see the whole Soldier (concept),” Sergeant Sonnenberg said.
For others like Spc. Jesse Nicholas of Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 23rd Ordnance, it was proof of the benefits of his unit’s weekly Sergeant’s Time training.
“It’s definitely a marked improvement from when we first trained here over a month ago,” Specialist Nicholas said. “We’ve continued to train since then, and it’s been outstanding.”