Lt. Col. Levon E. Cumpton, commander of the 1st Battalion, 138th Infantry Regiment, speaks to noncommissioned officers of the unit at the National Guard armory on south Kingshighway Saturday. About 70 Soldiers of the unit's two St. Louis-based companies were packing for Operation Golden Coyote in South Dakota next month. (Photo by Bill Phelan)
By Bill Phelan
ST. LOUIS, Mo. - About 70 Soldiers from two St. Louis-based Missouri National Guard light infantry units will take part in a large-scale military exercise in the wild expanses of South Dakota next month.
Guardsmen from B and C companies of the 1st Battalion, 138th Infantry Regiment, headquartered at the south Kingshighway Armory, will join thousands of other military personnel for Operation Golden Coyote, an annual training exercise that takes place across thousands of square miles around Rapid City.
In all, about 300 Soldiers of the 1/138th, many from battalion headquarters in Kansas City, will spend June 9-25 honing their combat skills in some very rugged terrain. The battalion's mission is simple - close with and destroy or capture the enemy.
"We'll be doing seven different lanes of training, establishing a good foundation of basics and growing from there," said Capt. Kevin R. Burkman, of Jefferson City, B Company commander. "We'll train in individual movement techniques and then how to form-up and move as a team. Our training lanes will include attack, raid and ambush, escape and evasion, and we might even train with some explosives."
In addition to the unique landscape, Operation Golden Coyote gives Soldiers from several states, and even other countries, the opportunity to train alongside each other. Several German Soldiers will train and share tactics with their counterparts in the 1/138th.
"This will be a good exposure to an operational environment," said Capt. Ronald Francis, of St. Peters, C Company commander. "It's all part of being a total success for any mission at the squad or platoon level."
The 1/138th, also known as the Centurions, is Missouri's only infantry battalion and maintains units in Kansas City, St. Louis, Boonville, Perryville, Monett, Anderson and Jefferson City. The battalion was organized as a volunteer militia called the St. Louis Grays in 1832. After seeing combat in the Mexican War, the Civil War, World War I and World War II, the battalion was converted to an engineer unit in 1974. The unit was reborn as an infantry battalion in the fall of 2007 and conducted its first drills in February, 2008. As National Guard units drill only one weekend a month and two weeks a year, the goal is to have the battalion combat ready no later than 2014.
"You have to have good leadership and good individual training and I think we have that in place," said Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Levon E. Cumpton, of Jefferson City. "In the crawl, walk, run stage, this battalion is about at a walk. We're going to use Operation Golden Coyote to expand that stage to a very fast walk. We're going to come out of this operation as a more confident fighting team."
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