Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Soldiers slither for Midland's crowd

John Singerling and Susan McPerson pose after trying on the protective gear Soldiers wear in combat. 
Story and photos by Robert Timmons
Fort Jackson Leader

Fort Jackson Night Infiltration Course
People try on military gear.
It was silent; the night illuminated only by starlight when the Soldiers first inched over the berm and began crawling as low as they could through soft sand towards their objective. After a few moments flares burst bright overhead and a cacophony of machine gun fire ripped through the night.

The troops, discovered out in the open, were welcomed with a chorus of 'oohs' and 'ahs' from more than a hundred visitors from the Midlands who watched through night vision devices as Soldiers in Training slithered through the darkness as red tracers screamed overhead.

The visitors were participating in a Night Infiltration Course (NIC) event arranged so community members would see what Fort Jackson and its Soldiers go through every training cycle.

"It makes me respect them even more than I already did," said Antonio Spinson, who came to witness first-hand how Soldiers train. "To run around do all the things they do for us overseas and carry all that weight and run around and go after the enemy that is pretty crazy."

Spinson tried on an Army Combat Helmet, body armor and picked up an M4 carbine before being welcomed by Maj. Gen. Pete Johnson, Fort Jackson commander at the Joe E. Mann building on post.

The event started with attendees trying on Army tactical gear before being introduced to the installation's training mission by Johnson. Lt. Col. Chandra Mofu, 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment commander, followed with a quick overview of what they would witness at the infiltration course.

Visitors would see Soldiers in Training crawling through a course with pyrotechnic explosions and live machine guns firing over their heads from towers more than 12 feet above their heads, Mofu said.

Attendees were given the opportunity to use night vision devices to see in the darkness of the range.

"This event tonight is actually where we transition from individual level of training to buddy team live-fire," he added. "They will get a rifle and they move in buddy teams and have to engage in targets" as their buddies move up on the targets.

Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Barnard, the battalion's senior enlisted leader, said NIC is a good way to teach the troops how to properly react to enemy fire.

"The NIC is a 100-meter course to test the endurance and stamina of Soldiers while doing the proper movement techniques" while under fire, he said. Soldiers who were more active and in better shape would finish first, while those who lived a more sedentary lifestyle could struggle.

They are going to do the proper high crawl and low crawl techniques to learn to "get as low to the ground as possible when they are taking fire," Barnard added.

The night ended as a panel of Soldiers fielded questions from the group about their training. When asked who had the best drill sergeants hands immediately shot up in unison.

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