Virginia Regional Training Institute trains Soldiers as infantrymen

Soldiers enrolled in the Infantry Transition Course at the Blackstone-based 183rd Regional Training Institute rehearse military operations in urban terrain techniques July 19 at Fort Pickett’s Cherry Village. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — National Guard Soldiers from five states, along with Soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserves, sweltered and trained in the July heat at Fort Pickett, Va., as part of the 11B Infantry Transition Course. The two-week course was taught by the instructors of the Blackstone-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute and enabled both junior enlisted Soldiers and noncommissioned officers the chance to earn the infantryman military occupational specialty.

The Infantry Transition Course is designed to allow schoolhouses to teach both junior Soldiers and NCOs at the same time, with extra emphasis on troop leading procedures for the NCOs. The 11B10 MOS-T course, for junior Soldiers, started with 10 Soldiers and graduated with eight July 21, while the 11B20/30/40 MOS-T course, for NCOs, started and graduated with 10 Soldiers.

The Soldiers and NCOs enrolled in the Infantry Transition Course transitioned from a variety of different MOSs and elected to shift into roles as infantrymen for a wide variety of reasons.

“11B is the way to go, the way to think, and the way to grow,” said Spc. Jimmy Tran, from the Leesburg-based Company C, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, a former vehicle mechanic who decided to become an infantryman in order to get more from his military service. “I’m finding out I’m getting more than I asked for, but I just drive on and it all makes me a better person. I’m exhausted, but I’m not gonna quit.”

Staff Sgt. Alex Chierici, who recently transferred from the California National Guard to the Virginia Beach-based Troop C, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Calvary Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, selected infantryman from a list of available MOSs at the time of his interstate transfer. “I’ve deployed with the infantry before and I really liked it,” he said.

The course focused on a variety of infantry tasks, including map reading, land navigation, weapons familiarization, patrolling techniques, convoy operations, detainee operations and military operations in urban terrain and culminated in a multi-day field training exercise that challenged the Soldiers, especially the NCOs enrolled in the course, to succeed and survive in an extremely stressful simulated combat environment.

Of the NCOs in the course, Sgt. Wesley Runion, one of the course instructors, said, “We put more pressure on them, just because they’re already behind the game when they go to their units. They’re going to be expected to be functional NCOs and we want to make sure they’re gonna be competent leaders when they go to their 11B units.”

“The instructors are really good. They yell a lot, but they also come around and make sure we’re corrected on what we’re doing and that we fix it,” said Pfc. Steven Borgna, a former mechanic from Pennsylvania’s 1st Battalion, 109th Infantry Regiment. “We’re just trying to focus on the key points that the instructors are pointing out and on getting them done.”

“These instructors have been great and patient with us because they understand that everyone is coming from a different MOS,” said Spc. Joshua Hill, of the Charlottesville-based Company A, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “They yell because it makes us better.”

The course generated an environment of camaraderie and brotherhood for many of the students, which, according to the course instructors, is one of the goals of the course.

“I’ve not even known them for two weeks yet, and we’re already at such a state of camaraderie and we’re pretty much all willing to do anything for each other,” said Spc. Paul Nadeau from Rhode Island’s 1st Battalion, 182nd Infantry Regiment. “It takes a very particular kind of person to do this job.”

“The most rewarding thing to watch over my past 25 years in the military is taking a group of individuals and watching them become a cohesive team. The harder the training is that you put them through, the tighter they become,” said Sgt. 1st Class Roger Fracker, course manager of the Infantry Transition Course. “You can see the transformation take place over the two week period for each class we teach. Instilling the pride to become infantrymen into this class was motivating to watch.”

Even though the course was challenging and pushed Soldiers beyond their comfort zone, many were thankful for the experience. “My favorite part is actually getting out here and doing what we were taught in the classroom and getting into the field and applying it,” Hill said. “It’s like camping, only with guns.”

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