Infantry Soldiers compete for more training

Story by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry negiotiate an obstacle on the confidence course at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., April 6, 2013. The Soldiers volunteered to run the course as part of a competition for selection to future Army schools. (Kentucky National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Thomas Ormsby)

GREENVILLE, Ky. — Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry travelled to the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., for a 3-day drill, April 5-7, 2013. The weekend included more than just a typical training schedule however, thanks to the Mountain Warrior Assessment Program. For 22 Infantrymen, it was a chance to compete for coveted slots for attendance to notable Army schools such as Airborne and Air Assault.  These courses offer specialized training that few Soldiers receive during their careers along with the chance to wear more of their “resume” on their chest.

“This assessment enables us to identify Soldiers with significant physical and intellectual skills who would be a good fit for our Scout Platoon, Sniper Squad, or as a student at a demanding course, such as Ranger or Air Assault,” said 1-149th commanding officer, Maj. Jeffrey Cole.

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Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry negotiate an obstacle on the confidence course at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., April 6, 2013. The unit had 22 volunteers compete for slots in future Army schools such as Airborne and Ranger courses. (Kentucky National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Thomas Ormsby)

The 22 Soldiers volunteered for the opportunity with the top performers given the first options for the schools. The designed assessment included the Army Physical Fitness Test with a modified 5-mile run, the confidence course, weapon qualification and a 12-mile road march with equipment.

“Anytime you have volunteers for an event such as this, you know you are going to get the best soldiers each unit has to offer,” said event officer in charge, 1st Lt. Ryan Hubbs.

“During the assessment soldiers were not yelled at or forced to complete any exercise or activity. Instead they took it upon themselves to push as hard as possible to be best. These are the kind of self-motivated, initiative-taking soldiers that we want in our Army and this is the type of culture and attitude the 1-149 wants to foster in our Battalion.”

Click here to see more photos from the weekend on the Mountain Warriors Facebook page.

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A Soldier with the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry climbs an obstacle on the confidence course at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., April 6, 2013. As part of a unit assessment, infantrymen were put through the confidence course, an Army Physical Fitness Test and a road march to compete for Army school slots. (Kentucky National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Thomas Ormsby)

Soldiers called it a fast paced and intense day of training with the appropriate challenges needed for the Infantry. Staff Sgt. Charlie Minix was the non-commissioned officer in charge of last year’s event and said this year’s was made more demanding. Already Ranger qualified, Minix participated for a spot in an Airborne school. He finished sixth out of the 22. As a veteran Soldier, he said his age may be catching up with him but he was proud of the newer members of the unit.

“I was pleased to see so many of the young Soldiers able to tough through the challenges of the weekend,” said Minix.  “The assessment was set up like a mini Ranger School. It allowed the battalion to see and test those Soldiers ability to strive to be the best. Overall it was a very challenging weekend,  I look forward to next year.”

Spc. Manuel Alvarez-Estrada finished with the most points of the assessment. He said the event did challenge him to put forth more physically, but he said helping to pace other Soldiers to the finish line was a highlight of his efforts. Alvarez-Estarda has high hopes to attend  either Ranger or Airborne school sometime next year. He also plans to resume he studies at Eastern Kentucky University and possibly pursue Officer Candidate School.

“These Soldiers are not only mentally and physically sharp, but they also possess an internal will to succeed that will help carry them through arduous experiences,” said Cole.  “This training event requires their very best and a deep commitment to persevere, but, in the end, they are better for having done it.”

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