Army

August 23, 2012

‘Buffalo’ mortar section tests its limits in training rotation

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Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Joseph Wilbanks

The Soldiers of Alpha Company, 4th Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment “Buffaloes” Mortar Section, sit under their Camouflage net while waiting for a fire mission at Forward Operating Base Denver during a National Training Center rotation Aug. 14.

A rotation at the National Training Center is supposed to be tough; conditions are harsh, limits are tested, and impossible odds become the norm for two weeks of difficult training.

The Alpha Company, 4th Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment “Buffalos”, mortar section is more than up to those challenges though, and happy to show they can be exceeded.

The Buffalos mortar section consists of two Strykers with a crew of five Soldiers per vehicle. These vehicles are equipped with a 120 mm mortar, capable of hurling deadly fire with pinpoint accuracy up to seven kilometers.

What makes the Buffalos mortar section stand out though is that they are manning both of those vehicles with only six Soldiers total and running 24-hour operations.

And if being at 60 percent strength and sleep deprived wasn’t enough, they are pushed all the way to the edge of fob, living under a camouflage net by their vehicles. Over 500 meters from the nearest building.

The section chose to be out there so as to be more prepared for their mission, said Corporal Brandon Walker, “Buffalos” Mortar Section Sergeant. We run in shifts with someone always awake in case of a fire mission.

With gear and weapons, a 500-meter walk over soft sand isn’t to appealing, so some creativity on Walker’s part was needed to decide who would go get ice or water for the Soldiers of the section.

“Sometimes it’s who ever lost at cards or who ever screwed up the last time,” said Walker.

Constant winds have also been a problem for the section.

“The net has blown down at least a dozen times,” said Private First Class Matthew Lizyness. “Once it blew down about six times in one day, but we just pick it up and start over.”

The whole team seems to have the same mindset as Walker and Lizyness. Roll with the punches and drive on in true Infantry fashion.

“It’s pretty dang difficult out here running a three-man crew on each truck,” said Walker, “but so far we are making it.”

 




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