YAKIMA, Wash. –
The rumbling of diesel engines marked the start of the event. The cool faces of the soldiers showed their confidence in training from the previous week. Their will, their might, and everything they learned, came together as the combined arms live-fire exercise began at Rising Thunder 19, at the Yakima Training Center, Yakima, Washington.
The live-fire exercise Sept. 12 was the culmination of this year’s two-week joint exercise and had both the Illinois Army National Guard’s 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and the 25th Infantry Regiment from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force clearing artificial urban areas simultaneously.
“Today we are out here conducting a joint live-fire exercise with mounted and dismounted troops along with the Japanese Ground Self-Defense force,” said Sgt. Sebastian Paul, a squad leader with Company D, 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment.
“This operation entails a mounted movement to a mock village where we are conducting simultaneous assaults and ensuring that any enemy positions are both effectively and safely cleared using both of these partner forces,” said Paul. “Leading up to this live fire exercise, we conducted some individual weapons qualification and training which then lead us to a squad live fire movement, and then brought us to today where we are integrating those squads into a larger platoon and multiple platoon sized element. This type of training is referred to as the crawl-walk-run approach.”
The crawl-walk-run approach is nothing new to the Army, and certainly not new to the Illinois National Guardsmen. However, this is the first time for the Illinois National Guard to take part in Rising Thunder after approximately two decades of the annual event being held in Washington.
“The final phase of training is the live-fire exercise,” confirmed 2nd Lt. Andrew Shinsako, platoon leader for Company A, 1st Platoon, 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment. “This is where the Soldiers put together the past week of training together.”
Both forces spent time leading up to the “run” phase of Rising Thunder 19 conducting various versions of the crawl and walk phases. They ran drills on several training lanes, including M4, mortar, sniper, shoot house, and the urban assault course. Each new lane introduced different elements of training that built on the previous skill sets.
“They qualified on their weapons, went through a shoot house to learn how to clear a building that requires engineers to use a breaching charge, and performed a foot movement with the Japanese,” said Shinsako. “Ultimately, they will combine all they've practiced and learned to coordinate their movement with the Japanese forces, while utilizing engineers and mounted vehicles to cover their movement to secure a village. “
“The crawl-walk-run approach allows us to train and enhance the capabilities of the individual in the crawl phase,” said Paul. “In the walk phase, integrate those into individuals into a small unit like the squad. And then ultimately run with multiple squads operating as platoon size or larger element.
This type of training is important for the Illinois Guardsmen because it not only prepares them for an overseas mobilization, but also for the combined environment they would engage in a real-world conflict.
“Training like this with the Japanese is important since rarely do we deploy as a single nation in any conflict around the world,” said Paul. “Being able to operate with the Japanese or any partner for that matter, would enhance our capabilities as we deploy around the globe.”