Soldiers of 1st Brigade Combat Team “Bastogne,” 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), continue to practice social distancing measures in response to COVID-19.
Soldier training within 1st BCT has not come to a halt but has continued forward with creative ways to ensure all personnel remain safe during the pandemic.
Virtual training has become the new normal as the Soldiers of 1st BCT adapt and ensure they remain lethal through challenges of the current environment.
First Lieutenant Aaron Katzman, platoon leader, B Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, found a way to continue training his Soldiers while maintaining social distancing.
“We are conducting virtual training on operations order briefings and how it relates to their squad live-fire exercise,” Katzman said. “We have different training planned each day within our company training plan and it is all done virtually.”
This is not the norm for Katzman and his platoon, but they have learned to use the everyday tools and resources that many never knew existed. Army websites, the Army Training Network and a few slideshows from training units all assist in educating the team.
“I never knew about all of the resources out there before COVID-19,” Katzman said.
“During this unfortunate time we are forced to use digital training due to social distancing and I have found a lot of tools that will continually help us train,” Katzman said.
Training digitally is not normally how an infantry unit maintains and increases its expertise but the Soldiers are gaining a significant amount of benefits as they dive deeper into the doctrine.
“We were in the field every week,” Katzman said. “We’re not getting as much field time but they are getting the doctrinal and academic knowledge they may not have had the chance to gain.”
Sergeant First Class Miguel Carcamos, infantryman, B Co., 1-327th Inf. Regt., knows digital training does not compensate for hands-on training but believes in the benefits.
“This doesn’t replace us doing practical exercises in the field,” Carcamos said. “As an infantryman that’s how we grew up. We do a block of instruction in class and then go to the field and do a practical exercise. This type of virtual training is something different, but we will come out of this with doctrinal knowledge.”
The mortar section from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2-327th Inf. Regt., also are training virtually and leaders expect it will be beneficial.
First Lieutenant Charles Chandler, infantry officer, 2-327th Inf. Regt., is the platoon leader for the mortar section and has gotten past the growing pains of virtual training and has seen its benefits.
“It took a while to create the first class,” Chandler said. “Now that we’re in a rhythm it takes us about an hour, but for our noncommissioned officers digging in the doctrine it can take about four to five hours. It will pay dividends and we use our leader time training to tailor these classes.”
Staff Sergeant Brian Hegert, indirect fire infantryman, 2-327th Inf. Regt., assists Chandler in instructing the courses and has received positive feedback from his Soldiers while learning a lot about himself as a leader.
“This training gives meaning to their current situation while they’re studying in their rooms,” Hegert said. “They enjoy it and get 24 hours to study the material before seeing the video. Privates get to see the big picture concerning field training. This training also gets me out of my comfort zone as I’m used to being out front. It’s tough to judge their understanding virtually but I’m learning how to conduct a class.”
Professional development has increased during this time of social distancing as our nation continues to fight the virus. This also is a time of deep reflection, understanding of values and what matters within our society.
Captain Benjamin Jameson, commander of A Co., 1-327th Inf. Regt., has learned a lot about society and his Soldiers while he conducts new ways to train his infantry unit during the pandemic.
“This has become a time to appreciate my Family and the human dimension,” Jameson said. “It’s easy to lose sight of that when you’re training and in the field a lot.”
Because of COVID-19 precautionary measures many companies are closed and only essential services are available. Jameson and his Family, like many other Families, have felt the effects firsthand.
“This has made me more empathetic to some of the struggles my Soldiers go through because I’m going through it right along with them,” Jameson said. “My wife works full-time, we have a kid and no child care. We’re figuring out how to balance both of our jobs, get our work accomplished and take care of our daughter.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped Bastogne from training and developing their Soldiers. The brigade continues to learn and adapt together as the world continues to fight and beat this virus.