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Second Dispatch: Night Ops

POSTED: September 9, 2015 7:11 p.m.
Caitlin Kenney/

Cavalry scouts with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, stand outside of a building in Sangari at the Joint Readiness Training Center after Operation Battle Spear Tuesday.

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FORT POLK, La. — This is my second dispatch from my embed with 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division at the Joint Readiness Training Center. It's Wednesday, and I've been in the box for four days now. The days are really starting to blend together.

I've been offline for a lot of it because of operations 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment was conducting, so I couldn't report as much. Also, I wasn't able to get any Internet. But that happens. If I've learned anything from this embed so far, it's adapting and overcoming obstacles.

The soldiers from 1-30th Infantry were part of a brigade-size operation, called Operation Battle Spear, to breach into a town called Sangari, which was were enemy forces had dug in.

During the rehearsals on Sunday and Monday, Command Sgt. Maj. Quentin Fenderson said the hardest part about the operation was going to be getting into the town.

“It’s not so much of inside the town. I think the action on the objective always takes care of themselves based off of the constant rehearsal you do from building to building. But the wrenches are always thrown in getting to the objective,” Fenderson said.

Several companies of soldiers from the 1-30th moved out early Monday evening, and my ride with the battalion executive officer, Maj. Brendan Fitzgerald, left after 10 p.m. under cover of darkness.

It took several hours to get outside of Sangari traveling at night, and a few times, we had to pull over because it was hard to see the road, or something happened to a vehicle.

Our Humvee hit a tree branch, which cleanly ripped off a cable that connected to a computer inside that tracked unit movement and communicated with other units.

Other than that, the night was a mix of driving and sleeping in the vehicle until we got outside of Sangari before the operation started.

Sleeping in a Humvee is definitely an experience. The interior is mostly metal and filled with radio equipment, bags, charts and weapons, and you need to find a way to sleep sitting up or sideways while wearing a helmet. It's more about trying to sleep than the quality of sleep.

Once the operation started, there were constant updates on what was happening inside the town.

Because I am a civilian embedded reporter, I can't carry a weapon, making me a risk of getting notionally killed out here — hence, staying with the executive officer who was monitoring the situation from down the road.

The brigade was able to breach the town and clear buildings, something not many units are able to do, according to one observer/controller/trainer. The OCTs, as they are called, are the advisers and monitors for the rotation. They watch how the unit does from about a company level up to brigade and watch events during the rotation.

The Sangari event was difficult because getting into the town was very tough. The enemy had tanks, improvised explosive devices and ground soldiers defending their positions.

After taking over the town, the next-hardest part is defending it. And that's where I left the unit Tuesday.

I'm with a new unit today, and I'm getting a different perspective of the rotation, brigade assets and missions that happen in the Joint Readiness Training Center. I'll be writing a dispatch on that soon and some articles as well.

I also have some great video and photos coming. I'm trying to upload as many as I can while I am here.

The soldiers are tired and looking forward to going home. I think eating Meals Ready to Eat, or MREs, for a month is starting to get old for them, and they are looking forward to eating all sorts of food when they get back to Fort Stewart.

Only a few more days, and they can eat all they want. 

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