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Posted: May 12, 2017 1:03 p.m.
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Armor meets light infantry as Cottonbalers depart for JRTC rotation

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A M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank from Co. B, 2-7 Inf., 1ABCT, 3rd ID, is loaded onto a trailer at the Rail Marshaling Area at Fort Stewart, May 2. The mechanized company team will be supporting the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division during their rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana May 8-25.

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  Soldiers from Company B, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment are headed to Fort Polk, Louisiana to take part in a rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center from May 8-25.

The Cottonbalers will be sending a mechanized company team of Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Abrams Main Battle Tanks to support the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division stationed at Fort Polk.

Capt. Andrew Ferrara, the commander for Co. B, 2nd Bn., 7th Inf. Regt., said he had to rethink the company’s training objectives to make sure the mechanized company team would be able to support a light infantry brigade.

“We had to ask ourselves what the mission requirements were going to be down at JRTC, what is this organization, a light-infantry organization going to ask us to do,” said Ferrara. “We need to make sure we can meet their mission objectives.”

Staff Sgt. Corey Burke, a platoon sergeant and master gunner for Co. B, 2nd Bn., 7th Inf. Regt., said to prepare for the rotation the company executed their gunnery table progression up through the company combined arms live-fire exercise and then focused on basic battle drills like entering and clearing a building, knocking out a bunker and react to contact.

Burke, one of several Soldiers from the battalion who have supported other light infantry brigades at JRTC over the past year, said they took the lessons learned from their previous rotations and focused on the basic skills to help prepare the company’s junior leaders.

“We have a lot of young squad leaders and team leaders that have had to come up through the ranks rather quickly and not really have the time to develop in their previous roles,” said Burke. “Being the first rotation as the platoon sergeant I know the platoon is lethal, it’s just now we are going to all come together and try to combine what everyone brings to the fight.”

Ferrara said having an armored formation supporting a light infantry brigade presents some significant challenges, specifically when it comes to sustainment.

“The support requirements and maintaining our operational ready rate, that’s going to be the biggest challenge,” said Ferrara. “We are going down with a pretty robust maintenance package ourselves, but the parts flow, that’s going to be a big thing for my executive officer to get integrated into their brigade support battalion.”

Burke also said the light infantry Soldiers may not have the experience working with a mechanized unit and an appreciation for their capabilities. 

“Biggest challenge is Soldiers in a mechanized infantry team know the capabilities of a Bradley and a tank, whereas a light infantry Soldier may not,” said Burke. “Having a CALFEX before we go into the box, with leaders talking about our SOPs and their SOPs and create a shared understanding, I think it will benefit us a lot more.”

Ferrara agreed that the best way to demonstrate what a mechanized company team brings to the fight is with a live-fire exercise prior to the force-on-force portion of the rotation.

“I think exposure to different types of organizations is development in itself,” said Ferrara. “I underappreciated the amount of firepower that an armored formation can bring to the battlefield when I was a light infantry guy. I think for this brigade, as they go into their brigade CALFEX, seeing four to five Bradleys shooting is a pretty impressive sight and humbling experience for the guys on the ground.”

Burke said his Soldiers will be able to benefit training alongside a light formation as well.

“I think just being able to see light infantry do what they do, and us taking some pros of what they do and implementing that with our rifle squads, we will be able to benefit and become better ground fighters when we drop the ramp and put the guys on the ground,” said Burke.


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