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After eight months of planning and preparing, the transportation specialists from the 1041st Transportation Company made it to Fort Harrison, Montana, to conduct the unit’s largest training exercise in two years. The company left Washington State for the hills of Montana.

“This was a huge undertaking after COVID-19 forced units to conduct virtual drills,” said Capt. Luis Torres, commander of the 1041st Transportation Company. “As a unit, we rolled the dice and began planning last October on a challenging and engaging annual training to get our Soldiers pumped up and ready to get back to training.”

Training for the Montesano and Spokane-based unit started with a 670-mile drive from Fairchild Air Force Base to Fort Harrison.

“Fort Harrison is the home of Special Forces for the Montana National Guard and is a great location for training. The staff and training available is world-class,” said Torres. “It was a very busy time of the year with many units from across the nation simultaneously training here, so it was good for us to get in early and schedule our training.”

While in Montana, unit members participated in three days of intensive counter-improvised explosive device training and combat logistics patrols. Guard members reacted to direct and indirect fire called up nine-line unexploded ordnance and nine-line medevac requests. The training simulated explosions and casualties.

“This was excellent annual training. Everyone did excellently, and we had no injuries,” said Sgt. Kelsey Lehto, a motor vehicle transportation specialist from Pasco.

When not on the training lane, Guardsmen and women used the virtual convoy trainer, the engagement skills trainer with the new qualification tables and an individual readiness trainer, a crew-served weapons simulator that allowed Soldiers to familiarize themselves with the M240B machine gun, the M2 50-caliber and the MK19 grenade launcher. Soldiers practiced basic warrior skills such as reading maps and plot grids, culminating in a practical land navigation course. Soldiers also received night-vision goggle training.

“We were fortunate enough to have two mechanic attachments that supported our training and kept our equipment running, as well as a medic that supported our needs and participated in the training with us,” said Torres.

Sgt. Bradley Collar, the medical noncommissioned officer from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 420th Chemical Battalion, taught the younger Soldiers basic first aid and casualty care.

“It was something I had not done before, being in a long convoy. I wanted to support this training so I could experience things I had not done before that I could use to build my medical skills,” Collar said. “This was a great experience. I was learning new things every day.”

Along with the military specialty training, Guard members conducted an Army Combat Fitness Test to familiarize themselves with the new requirements.

“After a year of not drilling, I felt the sense of unit identity had been lost,” Torres said. “This was my opportunity to regain that. Waking up early to do physical fitness training and long days of training kept the Soldiers engaged. This was a very successful annual training that Soldiers really enjoyed, and this is why they joined the National Guard – to learn new things, explore new places and have fun and be engaged.”

Credit: By Joseph Siemandel, Washington National Guard

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