In part one of this article I gave a brief overview of the 18Bravo course. Now I’d like to move onto the real fun and games: The 18B FTX.
The Field Training Exercise was intended to put together all of the skills you learned during the 18B course and actually apply them in a training setting. It was a great idea, except that, at some point, the folks running the Q-Course thought it would be even better to combine it with the 18C (Engineer) and 18E (Communications) students, which was great in theory, but led to a bit of drama. The 18D (Medics) students were on a longer training track than the rest of us and couldn’t be integrated into the FTX.
While out in the field, we were to simulate an actual combat deployment, conducting base camp operations on a FOB out in the North Carolina wilderness while planning and rehearsing for combat missions which we’d participate in while we were out there.
Our simulated FOB was pretty squared away. We had a mortar pit, Fire Direction Center, Quonset huts to use as barracks and team rooms, and had plenty of Humvees at our disposal. Note the large wooden framework in the background of the picture. The engineer students built that thing over the course of several FTXs. It was a huge lookout tower in the middle of the FOB. I thought it was kind of silly and never went up in it because I was afraid one of the instructors would designate me as a KIA. That tower had sniper bait written all over it.
While we had Humvees, you can also see in the picture that we were lacking some of those small luxuries that you take for granted, so like good SF students we improvised weapons mounts on the vehicles.
On the first night at the FOB we got hit by enemy sappers. Pop flares soared over our camp. These were supposed to be simulated mortar fire but none of us understood that and continued with our business until we were told that we were under attack and needed to hold the line before we got overrun.
The 18B students ran to defensive positions at the concertina wire that surrounded the FOB. I ran ammunition and gun oil to machine gunners. Meanwhile, one of our 18B instructors ran around outside our perimeter yelling: “FUCK YOU G.I.-FUCK YOU G.I.-FUCK YOU G.I.-FUCK YOU G.I.-FUCK YOU G.I.-FUCK YOU G.I.-FUCK YOU G.I.-FUCK YOU G.I.!!!!”
Eventually, he tripped on the concertina wire and cut himself, so he had to be driven out to the aid station. Before he left, he told me that the reason why our camp was so messed up was because of me and I had best unfuck it before dawn. I was never made Patrol Leader by the cadre so I was never actually in charge, but as a former Ranger everything that went wrong was on me. I shrugged my shoulders and went back to our planning hut.
We were planning to hit a training objective the next day and our instructors made the mistake of giving us a grid location to the target. They also left us alone for the night with our trucks. I quickly organized a recce mission with two 18C students who I knew, and we rolled outside the wire around midnight. Taking pictures of the objective, we used them to help plan the mission.
We hit the objective that next morning. Amazingly, we negotiated the maze of woodland trails straight to the target without getting lost. Breadcrumbs on a Garmin sure help. There was a series of buildings we were to secure, and my assault team quickly took three role players prisoner.
The rest of the assault element showed up as I called in our first phase line. Our war started to deteriorate as we took contact from a machine gunner up in the hills. Organizing an assault line, we crept up through a draw and over a small ridge before bounding forward and “killing” the enemy. From there, we assaulted down to our Limit Of Advance or LOA.
The real fun was happening inside one of the buildings that assaulters were clearing. An 18E student had taken another enemy prisoner in one of the rooms that his team cleared.
There are strict guidelines on how to handle detainees. A cadre member told the 18E student to “tag and bag” the prisoner, that is, put a tag on the prisoner with his name on it and bag up any items found on him, so that both the prisoner and his belongings can be sorted through later. The student misunderstood the term “tag and bag,” pushed the prisoner into the corner of the room and “executed” him with simmunition rounds!
Back at our FOB, things were not shaking out so well for us. The 18C cadre up and left, literally took all of their construction tools and went home. I can’t remember exactly what the problem was, but there was a big blow up between the 18B instructors and the 18C instructors about how to run the FTX.
During our After Action Review for the mission, one 18B instructor was chewing our ass frontwards and back over what a clown show our op had turned into. In the background, you could hear a second instructor riding his ass, egging him on by saying things like “Put ’em in the corner and tag ’em! Do the whole ‘vill!” Some of the higher ups, Officers and Warrant Officers from the Q-Course were there, and I think this may have been the beginning of the end for our 18B cadre.
At the end of the day, the 18B course was a memorable experience and I did learn a lot of new skills while I was there. I came to the course having previously served as a sniper, anti-tank gunner, and Team Leader in Weapons Squad, but as it turned out, I still had a lot to learn about weapons training and employment. Over all it was a great experience, even the FTX.
After the AAR, I was conducting an inspection of our assaulters, making sure that everyone’s kit was in order, when one of the instructors came into our hut and shut the door. It was the same guy who had tripped over the concertina wire. “What the fuck went wrong out on that objective,” he asked. “You guys looked like a bunch of naked people wearing roller skates locked in a room with the lights turned off. What the fuck?!?!”
I hope you enjoyed this bit about the 18B course, Lord knows we did.
Your favorite elite, Tier-One Operator, Jack Murphy
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