by U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Jameson Crabtree
Exercise News Day
November 5, 2018
After several days of training, U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers were tested on battle drills as part of Operation Blue Shield at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin in August 2018.
Each year, Operation Blue Shield trains between 1,000 and 1,500 U.S. Army Reserve police Soldiers.
The preparation leading up to the final test consisted of four lanes that challenged and improved their primary skill sets and core military competencies. Soldiers trained on moving techniques, map reading skills, camouflaging self and individual equipment, basic radio operation, medical evacuation report, casualty care and more.
The test combined all the training into one fluid battle drill in which units were judged on how proficiently they reacted to an ambush, established security at the halt and performed tactical combat care.
The final lane took Soldiers on a patrol through the woods. Laying wait for them were military police instructors acting as opposing forces armed with an M2 .50-caliber and M240B machine gun hidden in the brush. How they performed on the patrol was based on how well they implement the lethal warrior tasks they learned during the previous few days.
The crew of three Soldiers manning the ambush point paid close attention to how the advancing patrol reacted to their fire. They had the best vantage point and reported what they saw to instructors walking with the patrolling unit via radio. One of the instructors, an M240 Bravo gunner, Sgt. Zachary Grabau, of the 384th Military Police Company, was jokingly called a “new buck sergeant” by his fellow MPs.
"It’s always good to shoot even if it’s blanks. I like the smell,” said Grabau. “Going through it, everyone should know this stuff because these are basic warrior task. It’s a refresher course for what we learned in basic training."
Communication is vital to ensure mission success with no casualties and that often starts with unit camaraderie.
Grabau and Sgt. Watson Bradley, of the 384th MP Battalion, left their positions during breaks in the action and approached Soldiers with advice about how they could have improved movement when approaching a machine gun position. The 384th MP Battalion is based out of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
There was downtime in between patrols and the MP’s had time to joke with each other about using bullet casings as ear protection.
"Just put the spent rounds in your ears," said Bradley.“That’s tactic-cool right there.”
While waiting they debated the best war movies of all-time.
“When I was, 8, or 9, I watched ‘Saving Private Ryan.’ That’s what kind of inspired me to join,” said Grabau. “‘Fury,’ might be a better movie because it shows more grit. You can tell that their uniforms are more worn.”
Grabau is used to the field environment.
"I was a 13 Bravo before this. I was field artillery,” said Grabau. “I’m definitely accustomed to field life. When I was artillery, we slept in our gun and maybe took a water can shower off the grill once in a while, so this is a lot better to me."
Grabau and the Soldiers he trained are learning valuable lessons in the field.
"For instructors, it’s great because you get to show off your leadership," said Grabau. "For Soldiers, they get to show off what they know, and it builds a good cohesion throughout the squad. They need to take that back, and they need to keep doing it repetitively until they are so cohesive that they don’t even have to talk while they’re moving."