New Guard Soldiers get night ops training at Macon

Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Members of the Missouri National Guard's 1140th Engineer Battalion's Forward Support Company return fire during a night operations training exercise at the Macon Training Site.

MACON, Mo. -- For three new Missouri National Guard Soldiers, the 1140th Engineer Battalion's annual training offered a rare opportunity to navigate terrain with night-vision goggles, return fire from an attack from opposition forces and maneuver through a Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain site.

And it was all done in pitch-black conditions as part of a night-operations scenario at the Guard's Macon Training Site.

The three members of the 1140th's Forward Support Company are in the supply section and were taken on the night operations training by their supply sergeant, Staff Sgt. Joe Dilley. All three -- Pfc. Natalie Welker, Pfc. Cody Ostonal and Pfc. Chris Mitchell -- were at their first annual training.

Dilley believed that even though his Soldiers are in the supply section, they needed training that could come in valuable should they ever deploy to a battle zone.

"We can't just know how to issue out beans and bullets," Dilley said. "These are Army Warrior Tasks that we all have to know. Because this was their first annual training ever, I wanted to do something fun."

Dilley and his unit were dropped 2.5 miles away from camp in an armored personnel carrier. Their mission was to move to the Military Operations on Urban Terrain site, to take out a known threat, kill enemy forces and successfully move the three miles back to the forward operating base on foot.

Armed with M-16s (loaded with blanks), night-vision goggles, a hand-held navigation system and a grenade launcher, they faced enemy opposition at the MOUT site and at one other location. Dilley said after each movement, they held informal after action reviews to see where the Soldiers did well and in which areas they needed improvement.

"It builds morale and creates good cohesion," Dilley said. "If I have to take this team to war, I want them to know what to do. They need to be ready. It's like baseball, they have to be ready to think on their feet and be ready to make their next move. The more repetition they have, the more it will be second nature. Their Soldier skills will take over. If they do it enough, they'll get better at it."

A secondary motive is that Dilley wants annual training to be a good experience for his young troops.

"They can go back and talk to their buddies and say I got to ride in a tank, I got to wear night vision goggles, all that stuff," he said. "That's what a field environment is for and that's what AT is all about. It's fun, but serious. They also need to know how serious this training is and I think they came away knowing that."

Pfc. Natalie Welker, 22, of Fredericktown, Mo., said the experience was fun -- but it was also a valuable learning experience.

"At the MOUT site, we got to go in and clear the rooms," she said. "I think it really is helping us prepare. It was very detailed and more useful than learning in a classroom. When you actually do it, you learn more. We've really learned a lot."

Pfc. Chris Mitchell, 22, of Cape Girardeau, said he enjoyed the night-ops mission.

"We're Soldiers first," he said. "We might be put in that situation someday and we won't be going in blind. We got the full effect."

Pfc. Cody Ostonal, 20, of Fredericktown, agreed.

"It was fun," he said. "It was tiring, but fun. I know I learned something. I better understand what it could be like. I know it's just an exercise, but it's close to how it would be overseas."

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For more information about this release, please contact Scott Moyers at (573) 339-6264 or e-mail him at

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