YAKIMA, Wash. –
A common saying in the Army is that every Soldier is Infantry, no matter their primary duty position.
The truck drivers and maintenance personnel of the 1844th Transportation Company, based in East St. Louis, Illinois, take that to heart. While their primary duty is to ensure the prompt transport of troops and supplies, these Illinois Guardsmen have shown that they aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty to protect their convoys and fellow Soldiers.
During the past week and a half, Soldiers from the 1844th, which is part of the 232nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 108th Sustainment Brigade, have conducted improvised explosive device training, medical evacuation, vehicle recovery, and hostile environment lane training in preparation for the culminating event of their annual training at Rising Thunder 2019 at the Yakima Training Center, Yakima, Washington, Aug. 28-Sept. 13.
The truck drivers came to Yakima Training Center with the primary mission of transporting the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team. However, the resources and equipment the training center provided enabled the transportation company to engage in several training scenarios they cannot replicate back home.
From Sept. 6-7, the Soldiers participated in a two-day field training exercise, where they conducted base defense and sent their platoons out on transportation missions for their final objectives.
“The culminating event was a combination of all of the training they received over the last week and a half, spun up into a fast-paced, two-day field training exercise,” said Sgt. 1st Class Gary Cunningham, of Camden, Illinois, a platoon sergeant with the 1844th.
Upon leaving the field, Soldiers faced a lane that, unbeknownst to them, would push them to use all of the skills they had been sharpening since arriving at the central Washington training installation. The company employed basic and squad-level warrior tasks such as react to fire, care of casualties, use of radio communication, knowledge of how to send a situation or casualty report, and spotting IEDs.
“Our Soldiers are primarily vehicle operators with a small vehicle maintenance section,” said 1st Lt. Jamie Gunning, of Carlinville, Illinois, a platoon leader with the 1844th. “It isn’t often that we get the opportunity to work with other military specialties, but in this training environment we’ve been able to. We worked side-by-side with medics from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment and Infantry from 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment, and they’ve all taught us so much. This training has not only helped us learn how to operate in different tactical units, but also how to support them better.”
The 2-130th Inf. Reg. and 1-178th Inf. Reg. are both Illinois National Guard units participating in Rising Thunder 19, conducting annual training exercises. The 1844th has a long history supporting its combat arms units, whether from the National Guard, regular Army, or Army Reserve.
From medical evacuation helicopters to training alongside medics and infantrymen from the 178th Inf. Reg., the training at Rising Thunder brought a new level of realism to the 1844th’s training. Cunningham said he was especially proud of the Soldiers who jumped into action to fill the roles of their higher-ups when things got chaotic. His desired take-aways from Rising Thunder are teamwork and individual initiative.
“I hope our Soldiers remember that they have to know more than just their job,” said Cunningham. “They have to be willing to step up and do more than just their position at any given time.”