Rear detachment pushing to new heights

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1-149th (Rear) training

1-149th Intantry Soldiers attach sling loads to underside of UH60 Blackhawks during a training event at the Harold L Disney Training Center near Barbourville, Ky. (Photo by Lt. Col. Brian Demers, 1-149th Infantry)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The 1st Battalion 149th Infantry (Rear) may be designated the “rear detachment” while its forward element has mobilized for Iraq, but that doesn’t mean its Soldiers just sit around and keep the lights on.

Yes, they support the forward element.  Yes, they facilitate family support for the forward deployed Soldiers.  Yes, they maintain daily status of personnel actions and new recruits.

And yes, they even keep the lights on.

However, they also continue to conduct some pretty exciting infantry training.

The battalion recently came together to conduct common infantry tasks during a training event at the Harold L Disney Training Center near Barbourville, Ky.  In addition to land navigation, basic rifle marksmanship, urban operations, the Soldiers were able to practice some more advanced skills using helicopters.

“We wanted to give our rear detachment Soldiers some training that was worthy of talking about when they got home,” said Lt. Col. Brian DeMers, commander of the rear detachment.  “Even though the bulk of the battalion has been sent to Iraq, there are still many Soldiers that drill here and they deserve the same high quality training we give to the forward elements.”

1-149th (Rear) training

Classroom? A berm, a board, and nice day is all the infantry really needs to conduct training. (Photo by Lt. Col. Brian Demers, 1-149th Infantry)

“We want to make sure the message gets out that the 1-149th is still ready and relevant in the local community.”

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Capt. Robert Andersen maintains ground operational control during sling load operations. (Photo by Lt. Col. Brian Demers, 1-149th Infantry)

The rear detachment is composed of a mix of administrative and support personnel, as well as Soldiers with some sort of temporary medical condition that prevented them from deploying.  There are also troops whose terms of service would end during the deployment or new recruits and Soldiers who were not in the unit when the forward element mobilized.

Combat assault and sling load operations were the highlight of the day for many of the Soldiers.  During the combat assault, squads were picked up at one landing zone (LZ), flown around the area for a short flight and then dropped into a remote landing zone under simulated enemy conditions. Troops then had to navigate back to the original start point without using the roads.  All squads made it to their designated rally points within the time standards.  The Soldiers also enjoyed the sensation of open door flight by soaring through the hills and valleys of Eastern Kentucky.

1-149th (Rear) training

A Kentucky Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk approaches the landing zone as 1-149th Infantry Soldiers prepare for the next hookup. (Photo by Lt. Col. Brian Demers, 1-149th Infantry)

Sling loading was a task that many of the Soldiers had never accomplished, although it’s one that the Army performs almost every day in forward locations like Afghanistan and Iraq.  To familiarize the Soldiers with the task, Soldiers working in teams ran under hovering helicopters, climbed on equipment and hooked loads to the bottom side of the aircraft.  This task can be very intimidating as the aircraft are very loud, creates a tremendous amount of downwash, not to mention the rapidly spinning rotor blades.

“It’s kind of like working under a running lawn mower” one soldier was overhead saying.

Finally, as icing on the cake, recruits assigned to Det 2, Company C, 2nd Battalion 75th Recruiting and Retention were able to clamber on board for orientation flights.

Cries of “Now that’s what I’m talking about” and “Hooah” were heard several times from the recruits upon landing.

Many of the recruits are future 1-149th Infantry Soldiers currently assigned to the detachment to gain exposure to basic military skills while awaiting for their shipment to Initial Entry Training.

“We’re really grateful to Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion 147 Aviation for providing two helicopters and crews,” said Demers.  “The weekend was exciting and one that these Soldiers will remember and speak of for a long time!”

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