Infantry units start annual training with a bang

Story and photos by Sgt. David Bolton, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

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Kentucky Army National Guard Pvt. Markus W. Higgs, an infantryman with B Co.. 1st Battalion 149th Infantry from Bowling Green, Ky., deploys a grenade simulator in an improvised bunker during the grenade range training at the Harold L. Disney Training Center in Artemus, Ky., July 18, 2012. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Sgt. David Bolton, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment).

ARTEMUS, Ky.— Artillery simulators, grenades, convoy attacks, casualty evacuations, combatives, and fast roping from UH-60 Blackhawks; all part of the annual training that Soldiers of the Kentucky National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry Battalion experienced at the Harold L. Disney Training Center outside Barbourville, Ky., July 16-27.

“A lot of these guys are new recruits fresh out of basic, so it’s good training for them,” said Sgt. 1st Class Dennis Bumgardner, senior non-commissioned officer for Bravo Company of the 1-149th.

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The training these Soldiers received was not just to improve their skills in various fieldcrafts, but also to prepare them for high-level stress combat situations.  In order to accomplish this goal, other Soldiers who were with the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade that deployed over 1,300 troops to Iraq, assisted with the different training lanes.

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Kentucky Army National Guard Pvt. Cory M. Perry from Harland, Ky., an infantryman with Alpha Company from the 1st Battalion 149th Infantry, fast ropes from a B. Co 2nd Battalion 147th Aviation Regiment UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter during a fast rope insertion/extraction system (FRIES) training exercise at the Harold L. Disney Training Center in Artemus, Ky., July 17, 2012. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Sgt. David Bolton, Ke133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment).

“We want these guys to get a feeling of what combat is like,” said Spc. Thomas D. Gross, an indirect-fire infantryman and acting trainer with Alpha Company of the 1-149th.  “Being here lets us spend more time with the new guys and gives us a chance to train them to be comfortable under stress.”

Adding to the stress, daily rain showers kept the training areas constantly muddy.  Grass, mud, and water covered the otherwise clean uniforms as the soldiers crawled under barbed-wire obstacles, ran through the soggy underbrush and dangled from ropes in the cloudy skies.

To enhance their training, another Kentucky Guard unit, the 2nd Battalion 147th Aviation Regiment, augmented the 1-149th by providing the aircraft and aerial support for casualty evacuations, land navigation, special purpose insertion/extraction system (SPIES), and fast rope insertion/extraction system (FRIES); making the training a joint exercise.

“The training gets us where we need to be, it’s nice to be able to get a sense of the heat of the moment,” said Pvt. 1st Class Markus W. Higgs, an infantryman with Bravo Company of the 1-149th.

The annual training of the 1-149th will last until July 27 at which point the Soldiers will break down their field tents, pack-up their gear, and head back their homes for some well deserved rest.

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