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Missouri Guardsmen refresh on how to clear rooms during weekend drill
Missouri Guardsmen refresh on how to clear rooms during weekend drill

Spc. Erin Raymond, of Saint Robert, shows her “war face” after she and Spc. Hank Schmitz, both of the 35th Engineer Brigade, secure a hallway during a building clearing exercise Sunday during weekend drill at Fort Leonard Wood.
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Nov. 9, 2009) — Even for a combat medic like Spc. Erin Raymond, knowing how to clear a room is a fundamental soldier task.

“I have to be a soldier before I’m a medic,” said Raymond, who lives in Saint Robert. “It’s important because, even though I am a medic, if I’m put in a situation where one of our members is wounded and I have to help clear a building, I need to know my basic soldiering skills before being a medic.”

“Also, if by chance I ever need to go into a building to get a casualty out or provide care, I have to know the proper way to do it without getting myself or any of my other team members injured,” Raymond said.

Raymond joined members of her new unit, the Missouri National Guard’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company in the 35th Engineer Brigade of Fort Leonard Wood, for some military operations on urbanized terrain training during monthly drill.

“The mission was to clear buildings, practice breaching buildings, movement techniques in an urban environment and clear and secure a village,” said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Doty, the unit’s readiness and training noncommissioned officer. “I think it went very well for pretty much our first time out here on this particular type of training and the training site.”

The soldiers went through a walk and crawl phase where they re-familiarized themselves with tactics, techniques and procedures and performed their tasks without Kevlar helmets or individual body armor. No ammunition, including blanks, was used, nor were there any types of pyrotechnic booby traps or improvised explosive devices in place. The slower pace also allowed soldiers the opportunity to ask questions and learn from their mistakes.

“This is just to re-instill what they already know,” said Doty, of Ozark. “Those basic skills that they’ve learned are the things that will always be with them so they can help out when it’s needed.”

Soldiers were divided up into four new squads to go through the tasks.

Doty said what impressed him most about the training was how well the soldiers, who had never worked together in these squads, performed.

“We took people’s experiences from deployments and their time in the military, and they are teaching those who are less experienced,” Doty said. “We got different approaches on how to do the same task, as long as it was done correctly and safely.”

For Spc. Hank Schmitz, of Waynesville, the training was a good experience because he learned different methods of accomplishing the same task.

“There is more than one way to bust into a building,” he said. “You just have to pretty much look for the easiest access, whether it’s a front door, window or even a hole in the wall. You can make a decision on the spot and decide to do it this way instead of the way you originally planned to do it.”

Doty also was pleased that the soldiers were able to complete the training and did so without any injuries.

Overall, the soldiers responded well to the training.

“It was a good refresher for me on clearing buildings. It was very good training and I learned a lot,” Raymond said.

Schmitz said the most crucial thing he learned was the speed needed to clear a building effectively.

“I saw the importance of getting into the building and securing it as quickly as you can,” he said. “That way you can have your following forces come on in if they need to get out of harm’s way.”

Staff Sgt. Lavern Peart, of Waynesville, said she re-learned a lot because it was training she hadn’t received in a while.

“It was very realistic,” she said. “The best part of the training was us coming together as a unit, coming together as a team and learning things that are essential to being soldiers.”

Spc. Rico Jenkins, of Jefferson City, said the two important things he learned during the training were troop spacing and how to communicate in that type of combat situation.

“I learned a lot more about how we stack up outside a building,” he said. “We learned about being quiet, the element of surprise and different types of taps and what they mean. You can use the taps, or hand signals, to make sure everybody is ready and on the same track to go into the building.”

Jenkins called it valuable training because the enemy isn’t just going to walk out of a structure and give up.

“There are going to be a lot of people hiding behind doors and you have to know how to get in there and get them,” Jenkins said. “Or, there are people hiding information that we need to get.”

During drill, the unit recognized specific soldiers for their recent accomplishments.

• Command Sgt. Maj. Ray Harding, of St. Robert, had his retirement ceremony after 37 years of service in the National Guard, 35 of which were in Missouri.

• Maj. Joe Coyle, of Ballwin, was awarded a Bronze Star.

• David Eley, of Springfield, was promoted from the rank of private first class to specialist.

• Pfc. Brian Kaolowi, of St. Robert, was recognized as the brigade’s Soldier of the Quarter.

• Sgt. Juanita Yabarra, of Laquey, was honored by the unit after her term of service expired. She received a saber from the unit’s noncommissioned officers, as well as an Army Commendation Medal.

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