Salutes & Awards

June 7, 2013

The view least seen

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Capt. Ashley Welte
Sidewinder Team, Operations Group NTC and Fort Irwin

Soldiers from the Sidewinders Team in Operation Group, reach the peak of Tiefort Mountain where they were met unexpectedly by an OH-58 AC Kiowa helicopter at the National Training Center and Fort Irwin, May 8. Tiefort Mountain reaches more than 5,600 feet in elevation, making it the highest peak at the NTC. A blinking red light at Tiefort’s peak is used by many of the rotational training units and Soldiers here as a source to orientate their position because the light can be seen throughout the training area.

While many units have traveled the dust-laden grounds of the National Training Center prior to a deployment or for annual training, few have been called upon to perform a far greater task in the Mojave Desert: coaching and mentoring their peers to succeed where others have failed. That view is reserved for the few, who separated themselves from the pack. They are agile, adaptable and passionate. They believe in the greater good. They want the best for their career field. More importantly the Army’s success is important to them.

When the Army provided many of us the opportunity to become observers, coaches and trainers, many cringed, as most of us spent time as part of a rotational unit here. We visited the vast deserted land, far from civilization, and vowed to never return. However, as fate would have it, we would return once again. Only this time it would be to train and ensure the success of others. We would be required to gain an understanding of the desert, a knowledge only surpassed by the ones who have come before us; a knowledge beginning with respect for our surroundings and an even greater admiration for Tiefort Mountain, one of the highest points in the desert.

Soldiers with Sidewinders Team in Operation Group gather at the summit of Tiefort Mountain after making a three-hour trek to the 5,600-foot peak at the National Training Center and Fort Irwin, May 8. The Sidewinder Team is the NTC’s training team for Brigade Special Troops Battalions within Heavy Brigade and Infantry Brigade Combat Teams. The Sidewinder Team provides expert Observer Coach/Trainers to coach, mentor, train, and provide feedback to BSTB’s in order to prepare them for a full spectrum of combat operations. The team also trains the echelon above brigade enablers such as additional engineer, military police units and military working dog teams. On order, the Sidewinders provide OC/T’s to support Stryker Infantry battalions and engineer battalions. The Sidewinder team also serves as the National Training Center’s lead integrator for collective counter improvised explosive device training.

This mountain is more than just a large rock formation rising abruptly from the surrounding desert. It would be a guidepost, used not only to aid in our navigation, but the rotational unit as well. When the rotational units journey through the desert, it is sometimes difficult for those to find their way. As OC/T’s, it is one of our responsibilities to ensure they do not go astray. One pertinent piece of advice we provide to them is to always look to the highest point in the desert, the red blinking light, sitting atop of the mountain. We tell the leaders and Soldiers alike to use it as a reference, to orient from the terrain and utilize the light as a guide, and as long as it is visible they will never be lost.

The view of this great mountain is one that is not envied nor is it obvious to the naked eye; it is one of dust, sweat, and frustration. However, it is one that cannot be emulated or shared. You must be one traveling through the desert to fully appreciate its beauty, and the journey may be difficult, but the view is worth it as the Sidewinder Team from Operations Group learned. The team chose to take on a task that many avoid, ascending Tiefort. Starting at an elevation of 2,454 feet, they arrived at 5,063 feet within three hours. The climb was difficult but the desert prepared them well.

Although the climb was hard and more difficult near the crest, they pressed forward to the peak. The team was able to take in the view, one reserved for a select few; the ones who chose to take the path less traveled. Relying on each other to scale the boulders, they made it as a team. The goal was accomplished, ascending the mountain that so many look to as a beacon of reference looking over them and providing them guidance on their journey. As the team looked out over the vast terrain, they were grateful, for all the desert has taught them and all that they had learned. The team was called upon to teach, but what no one explained to them was they too, would be the ones who have learned.




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