Michigan Army National Guard Soldiers with the Dowagiac-based Troop C, 1-126 Cavalry Squadron, conducted training on zodiac boats along the Kalamazoo River on June 6, to enhance their ability to move Soldiers.
“As reconnaissance Soldiers, we need to be proficient in many different methods of getting around the battlefield,” said 1st Sgt. Mike Henry, senior noncommissioned officer of Troop C. “Tonight’s exercise will give us a chance to practice zodiac insertion should the need ever arise.”
The exercise began with an order from the platoon leader, 2nd Lt. Randy Jozwiak, informing the Soldiers what they would be doing.
“This is Jozwiak’s first drill since completing infantry school at Fort Benning,” said 1st Lt. Ryan Kimball, commander of Troop C. “This kind of event is a perfect prelude for our AT (annual training) in August.”
Following the briefing the Soldiers departed the barracks to begin conducting rehearsals on the zodiacs. The movement along the river was scheduled to begin at 3 a.m. and knowing all the tasks involved would be very important given the limited visibility.
At 2 a.m., Army trucks with zodiacs loaded on trailers, departed Fort Custer and headed to the site where the boats would be put in the water. The drive was a short one and the zodiacs were all put in the river without incident prior to the scheduled start time.
“You never know how long it will take you to move down a river,” said Sgt. 1st class Steven Sparks, a platoon sergeant in Troop C. “Obstacles like rocks, stumps and growth across the river are all possibilities that could slow us down so getting a head start is a good thing.”
While the movement was considerably long, taking the better part of four hours, the river was almost free of obstacles with only a handful of areas that temporarily slowed the Soldiers. The landing site was a portion of the Fort Custer State Park.
“This type of operation required coordination and support from a number of agencies outside of the Guard. For example, CM Contracting allowed us to use their property for our inserting into the river. Additionally, we discussed this training with the Battle Creek Police Department and the manager of the state park; we made sure we communicated our plan to everyone we thought might be impacted by our training,” said Kimball. “We even talked to the boy scouts last night to make sure everything was good to go. We have received wonderful support from every agency we have had to work with and look forward to doing this type of training in the future.”
The arrival of zodiacs and other military equipment drew some curious looks from the bleary-eyed boy scouts who were staying on the state park. Unfortunately, for the Soldiers in the Troop C, the boat movement was only the beginning of the events for the drill weekend and, after everyone was accounted for and equipment checked, they disappeared into the woods to start the second portion of training which would take them well into Saturday evening to complete.
“We are definitely going to push the Soldiers this weekend, being a member of Charlie Troop means you come to drill expecting to finish cold, wet and tired but also with a sense of accomplishment and a job well done,” Kimball noted.