On a rainy afternoon during a field exercise conducted at the foot of Mount Rainier, Sgt. 1st Class William Wyllie spoke of his feelings upon learning about the parade which Grant County conducted earlier this month to honor its service citizens in uniform.
"Hearing about the parade made me feel pretty great. It's good to know everybody back home is thinking of us," he said. After speaking Sgt. 1st Class Wyllie moved out to conduct a mission. He was leading Grant County's citizen soldiers through one of the many field problems they had to master before being certified as having completed their Theatre Specific Individual Readiness Training.
The first day of TSIRT was spent attending classes. The subjects included "Nuclear Chemical Biological" protection, responding to civil disturbances, troop-leading procedures, conducting security patrols, reacting to enemy contact, building fighting positions, building triple strand concertina wire fences, and searching vehicles. After a day of classes, Grant County's citizen soldiers tackled a series of field problems that honed their skills and applied the instruction they had received. The field problem was conducted on April 15 and 16.
Squalls, freezing rain, and gusting wind were additional challenges Grant County's citizen soldiers overcame during the field problem. They faced surprise attacks by opposing forces whose unconventional tactics and weaponry challenged their readiness, knowledge and stamina. Their mastery of all subjects taught during the classroom phase was tested. The weather tried their mettle. Grant County's citizen soldiers were found more than equal to the challenges they faced. They completed TSIRT one day ahead of schedule. The training prepares them for the challenges they might face after leaving Fort Lewis, Wash.
The Observer Controller/Trainers expressed their satisfaction with the performance of Grant County's citizens in uniform as well as that of the other soldiers of the 1249th engineering batallion. Because of the high level of skill they possess they completed the training two days ahead of schedule. The OCTs who conducted TSIRT are regular army soldiers who are permanently stationed at Fort Lewis.
Engineer Qualification Tables are the next challenge Grant County's Guardsmen are going to meet. Here they will further prove their readiness for deployment by demonstrating themselves proficient in the skills required of combat engineers.
All of Grant County's citizen soldiers have qualified on their individual weapons. Besides his M16A4 rifle, Sgt. Garth Leighton's assigned weapons include an M2 50-caliber heavy machine gun. This rugged weapon first came into service during World War II. It remains a reliable combat weapons system used to destroy lightly armored vehicles. After coming off the firing line where he qualified on the M2 machine gun, Sgt. Leighton said that he was confident he could stop "pretty much anything" with it.
As of April 21, Grant County's citizen soldiers are still waiting for official word as to where they will deploy and when their equipment will be shipped to their deployment station. They continue to prepare themselves and their equipment so they are ready once they receive the order to deploy. Sgt. Wyllie reported that Spc. Jamison Anderson, Spc. Justin Caughlin, Sgt. Leighton, Sgt. Edward Lewis, Staff Sgt. Jason Snyder, and Spc. Shane Sweek are all doing well and glad to know that, back home, their family, friends and neighbors are thinking of them.
Staff Sgt. John Driscoll reports on the activities of the 1249th engineering batallion, based in Burns, for the Oregon Army National Guard.