Training in a time of COVID-19

By Sgt. Joshua Syberg | 76th Infantry Brigade | Aug. 10, 2020

Camp Atterbury —

Verbal commands echoed across the rolling hills of Camp Atterbury.
SECTION!
FOUR ROUNDS FIRE FOR EFFECT!
AT MY COMMAND!
GUN TWO UP!
GUN THREE UP!
GUN ONE UP!
GUN FOUR UP!
HANG IT!
FIRE!
These verbal commands had a distinct sign of the current environment, they were muffled by masks.
During an integrated live fire, soldiers with the 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s 151st Infantry Regiment completed mortar table five, a practice qualification exercise, at Camp Atterbury, July 21, 2020.
As a firing range officer in charge, ensuring safety while maintaining training standards is second nature.
However, range safeties have a new invisible danger to mitigate, COVID-19.
“Even though mortars have a distance that they have to be apart on the gun line, that doesn’t stop the actual crews from being less than six feet apart,” said Sgt. 1st Class Ramon Baty, the range OIC for mortar qualifications. “While on the gun line, every soldier has their masks on to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Also, we have hand sanitizer, everything is getting wiped down and hand washing stations are next to our latrines to mitigate risks.”
Baty explained that attention to detail is extremely important to mortars. Being slightly off in direction at several thousand meters can take fired rounds off target and create unintentional danger.
National Guard units have to fight a constant battle to maintain readiness and soldiers’ perishable skills.
By knocking off the rust and getting back on the guns, Baty said the teams have gone from processing six or seven missions on the first day to processing over 40 missions on their third day.
“COVID-19 has really affected our training this year,” said Pfc. Zach Brown, indirect fire infantryman with the 151st Infantry Regiment and acting squad leader for gun one. “This is our first live fire that we have done for the year. It feels good to be able to get out and train for our job and hone our skills in by getting rounds down range.”
Brig. Gen. Dale Lyles, Indiana’s adjutant general, has a “people first” mentality to leadership. Not only is the safety of the force paramount, but also the community and families his guardsmen come in contact with who may be more vulnerable.
“We want to do everything within our power to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to our Hoosier community,” Lyles said. “We remain diligent in following CDC’s guidance while maintaining our readiness. It’s going to take all of us working together to beat this.”
Guardsmen across the state continue to adapt to the current pandemic. Whether helping Hoosiers in the community, maintaining training standards or simply following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines— they stand ready.