Virginia school house provides training to light infantry leaders

National Guard Soldiers from Virginia, Colorado and Pennsylvania train on room clearing procedures June 13 at the Fort Pickett MOUT site during the Light Leaders Course taught by noncommissioned officers from the Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute. The two-week course aims to teach junior infantry leaders how to be more effective small unit infantry leaders through the missions conducted during the field training exercise and through lessons on weapons familiarization, land navigation, communications and the combat operations orders process. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — In the woods of Fort Pickett, Virginia Guard Soldiers from the Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute led National Guard Soldiers from across the country in a field training exercise as part of Light Leaders Course. The course began June 2 with 11 National Guard Soldiers from Virginia, six from Colorado and two from Pennsylvania, and wraps up June 16.

The course aims to teach junior infantry leaders how to be more effective small unit infantry leaders through the missions conducted during the field training exercise and through lessons on weapons familiarization, land navigation, communications and the combat operations orders process, according to Sgt. 1st Class Roger Fracker, Light Leaders Course Manager.

“Light Leaders is really to improve the skills of infantry leaders, especially small unit leaders, junior [noncommissioned officers] and junior officers and to go a little bit beyond what they receive at basic training and basic initial infantry training,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Nolan, infantry instructor at the 183rd, RTI.

According to Nolan, the first phase of the Light Leaders Course takes place primarily in the classroom.

“They get a spectrum of classes, some of it is PowerPoint, but they also get a lot of hands on with weapons and some range time as well,” Nolan said.  “The first week is actually pretty light – there are long days, but they aren’t physically demanding and that’s when they’re really getting down to the basics that will hopefully set them up for success when they do hit the field.”

The second phase of the course focuses on putting the lessons learned in the classroom to the test in a field environment.

“The real test for most of these guys is the FTX, and it is merely a series of back-to-back missions that they receive,” Nolan said. “Phase two is that field training exercise, four and half days in the field, that culminates in a big assault on our [military operations in urban terrain] facility at Fort Pickett, which is an outstanding facility.”

“It’s exhausting, but it’s good.  It’s a learning process for everyone,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Teribery, of the Colorado National Guard’s Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment.

Light Leaders Course provides infantry leaders the opportunity to sharpen the infantry skills they first gained in basic training and that they may not often have the chance to revisit.

“Light Leaders is really important, especially for infantry leaders, because you can be in a leadership position but not actually do these kinds of tasks or battle drills,” Teribery said.  “I’ve been infantry for a while and a lot of this stuff I’ve never done. It’s definitely beneficial from my point of view as a leader because now I can take this back to Colorado and actually teach my guys the right way.”

Spc. Josh Walker, a combat medic enrolled in the class from Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Brigade Combat Team received a waiver to attend the course, normally only offered to infantrymen.

“I’m in a light infantry unit as a medic and this helps me understand the whole organization better and helps me to do my job better,” Walker said.

The final obstacle for the Soldiers enrolled in the Light Leaders Course is a mandatory eight-mile road march. After the road march and successful completion of all other mandatory course tasks, the Soldiers will graduate from the course as qualified light infantry leaders June 16.

Nolan said he hopes the Soldiers leave the class with “the ability to lead with confidence,” and that “part of being a leader is being able to pass on that knowledge so we hope they are able to go back and be expert enough to train others to a level of confidence.”