GIFFORD PINCHOT NATIONAL FOREST, Wash. – With 100-pound rucksacks on their backs, the tired scouts looked up hill. They were cold and wet and climbing was the last thing they wanted. Long days and frigid nights had taken their toll on the Soldiers, but they kept pressing forward. Moving was the best way to stay warm in the drizzly Washington weather.
These scouts, with Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment, 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, spent a week in early December honing their reconnaissance and surveillance skills while learning to traverse the rough terrain Gifford Pinchot National Forest offers.
“This is a great opportunity for us to bring them out into unfamiliar terrain,” said Capt. Edward Green, a Wilmer, Minn., native and Troop A commander. “We are building a skill set these guys have really not used before.”
Each of Troop A’s 9-man reconnaissance teams planned their own missions. The scouts then moved, primarily on foot, to different locations where they set up hidden camps and observed simulated enemies.
Green said reconnaissance teams like these usually operate far ahead of friendly forces, collecting information on terrain and enemy positions. The information provides commanders a better understanding of the battlefield.
The Gifford Pinchot National Forest has steeper hills, deeper valleys and a more rugged landscape than what the scouts usually train in.
“They’ve never really seen terrain like this before, and I’m hoping that it will toughen them a little bit and challenge them to think outside of the box,” Green said. He added that training at the national forest, as opposed to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, challenged leaders and Soldiers to plan and operate in unfamiliar terrain.
“It’s a pretty neat experience because we are not coming across already dug foxholes or well-laid-out trails,” said Spc. Gregory Gayle, a Sonora, Calif., native and gunner with Troop A. “It’s just a little bit more wilderness and we have to do it ourselves.”
The scouts spent days in the rain with nothing but their equipment to keep them warm.
“The weather up here is a little different than JBLM,” said Gayle. “We’re higher in elevation and it seems quite a few degrees colder.” But the tough conditions helped the Soldiers come together as a team.
“This training helps the unit stay together … because we rely on each other,” Gayle said. “We have to motivate each other and push each other to make it through the cold nights and long days of moving around with a heavy weight on our backs.”