6-17th Cavalry Regiment prepares for Iraq

Spc. Elayseah Woodard-Hinton and
Pfc. Howard Ketter
20th Public Affairs Detachment

Members of Task Force Sabre from Fort Wainwright participated in training at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Aug. 4 in preparation for their upcoming mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Soldiers of F Troop, 6th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, who are in the process of adjusting to the hot climate, focused on close-quarter marksmanship and crew served weapons familiarization with the MK-19 grenade launcher and the M-2 .50-caliber machine gun.

“The training is to make sure we’re comfortable with the weapons and to make sure the weapons are functioning properly before we go forward into Iraq,” said Warrant Officer James Arwine, a native of Goodyear, Ariz.

The Alaska-based Soldiers have spent much of their time before and since their arrival in-country training to become proficient in warrior tasks. The unit, which is primarily comprised of fuelers, mechanics and supply personnel, will provide combat logistics patrols for their area of responsibility. 

“So far we’ve done (the Humvee Egress Assistance Trainer) and convoy training, while finding out everything that’s going on in Iraq,” said Spc. Nikita Hall, a native of Fitzgerald, Ga.

“Today was just getting a feel for the .50-cal.,” Hall said.

The unit was not there to qualify, but to learn about head space and timing, along with the basic functions of the weapon, she said.

Before firing rounds at different types of targets on the training site, the Soldiers walked through the process of loading, unloading and correcting weapons malfunctions to build familiarization and confidence in using the weapons.

The Soldiers then continued their training with close-quarter marksmanship.

Soldiers went through a dry run of close-quarter firing without body armor or ammunition. They did a second run in body armor with no ammunition before firing in full combat gear with live rounds during the final run. During each run, the Soldiers advanced in a linear formation toward their targets, firing one or two rounds with each advancement. 

“I think that confidence is always going to be the key, because ultimately you want to ensure that the Soldier is confident when he walks out the door and gets on the road,” said Capt. Damien Boffardi, a native of Williamsburg, Va.

While weapons familiarization was the agenda for the day, the Soldiers continuously work toward getting acclimated to the change in temperature, which is much different from the cold climate of Fort Wainwright.

According to Boffardi, the temperature in Alaska was 62 degrees when they left, compared to the 122 degrees they experienced when they arrived in country.

Staff Sgt. Ruby Vega, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., said it has been an adjustment coming from an extremely cold environment to an extremely hot one.

In order to adapt to the new environment, the Soldiers hydrate regularly and carry out training early in the morning and in the evening when it’s cooler. They also participate in exercises on living and working in the heat.

“We do a lot of force marches to get acclimated to the weather while wearing full gear so we get used to having it on in the heat,” Arwine said.

The 6-17th will soon be in Iraq putting all their training into practice in support of OIF.

“There is a huge mission ahead of us, and we have a great bunch of Soldiers,” said Boffardi, who also said he hopes the deployment to Iraq goes well.