National Guard, Reserve Soldiers learn advanced infantry skills

Soldiers attending the Infantryman Advanced Leader Course at the 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute learn advanced infantry techniques Aug. 14, 2013, at the urban operations training site at Fort Pickett, Va. The course aims to teach infantry leaders the skills required to operate as platoon sergeants and focuses on a variety advanced infantry leadership skills, including advanced rappelling techniques and varied door breeching techniques. The course runs Aug. 3- 17 and the 13 students enrolled in the course include Soldiers from the National Guard and one from the U.S. Army Reserve. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Soldiers attending the Infantryman Advanced Leader Course at the 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute learn advanced infantry techniques Aug. 14, 2013, at the urban operations training site at Fort Pickett, Va. The course aims to teach infantry leaders the skills required to operate as platoon sergeants and focuses on a variety advanced infantry leadership skills, including advanced rappelling techniques and varied door breeching techniques. The course runs Aug. 3- 17 and the 13 students enrolled in the course include Soldiers from the National Guard and one from the U.S. Army Reserve. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. – The Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute taught the Infantryman’s Advanced Leader Course for the first time to a class of 13 infantrymen. The course was held Aug. 3-17, 2013, and included National Guard Soldiers from Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina, as well as one Soldier from the U.S. Army Reserve.

The course combines doctrinal infantry tactics with lessons learned from recent conflicts and aims to prepare noncommissioned officers for the role of infantry platoon sergeant and other advanced leadership positions.

“The goal of this course is to get everyone on the same sheet of music,” said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Homer, the course manager. “Everyone has different [standard operating procedures], different engagement areas they’ve been to, so this is getting everyone on the same sheet of music with tactics behind it.”

The students split their time between classroom instruction and hands-on field training. Training topics include land navigation, forward observer procedures, the roles of a platoon sergeant, urban breaching, infantry battle drills, tactical site exploitation, tactical questioning, patrolling and machine gun employment with a variety of weapons systems. Students must successfully complete several exams, including exams on tactics and forward observer procedures as well as a land navigation exam which required the students to find three points out of five in less than three hours.

“It’s teaching us to be better leaders, to move forward and take care of our guys,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew McComas, a Virginia Guardsman assigned to Company B, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

The course made use of Fort Pickett’s urban training site for the culminating training exercise of the course, allowing Soldiers to rappel off and through buildings, conduct urban breaching and put the skills they’d honed during the two-week course to the test.

“Now they get the practical exercise so they can apply what they’ve learned in the classroom,” Homer said.

The course utilized the expertise of five instructors, each of whom have completed multiple deployments and brought a variety of real world experiences to the training.

“We like to add things to the curriculum, not to the extent to where it takes away from what the training is supposed to do, but to give the students examples of the applicability of techniques that are in use in country now,” said Homer.

“The instructors are awesome,” said Staff Sgt. Mike Manz, an infantryman with the North Carolina National Guard. “They associate well with all the students and they get along great with all of us. They’ve just been very well-rounded and very strong instructors.”

Along with training the students to successfully perform at the platoon sergeant level, the course also provides the infantrymen with skills they can take back to their unit and pass on to their Soldiers.

“A lot of what we learn is on the next steps to moving up and becoming platoon sergeants and stronger leaders,” Manz said. “But a lot of the tasks we’re learning here are also things we can take back to our unit and to our Soldiers.”

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Photos: Virginia RTI teaches infantrymen advanced leader skills