Missouri Guard's 835th Combat Service Support Battalion conducts base defense exercise

Missouri National Guard Spc. Brittany Bond, who lives in Jefferson City, searches for opposing forces as she defends a position during the 835th Combat Service Support Battalion September drill at Macon Training Site.
(Photo by Matthew J. Wilson)

By Matthew J. Wilson

MACON, Mo. - The Missouri National Guard's 835th Combat Service Support Battalion planned and executed a base defense during a field training exercise over its September drill weekend at the Missouri Guard's Macon Training Site.

Armed with paintball rifles and smoke grenades, about 35 Guardsmen in the Jefferson City unit were tasked with defending a tactical operations center and a quarter-mile stretch of roadway from 10 members of an opposing force, played by officers from the unit.

"Our folks developed the plan for the base defense Friday and Saturday we implemented it," said 1st Sgt. Donna Kinder, the 835th's first sergeant. "Then of course we wanted to test it with the opposing forces to see if we were successful in the way we set it up and how we were responding to the opposition."

The Guardsmen, who also trained in land navigation and radio communications over the weekend, utilized tactics and training they'd received in a classroom setting earlier in the drill to select good firing positions to secure the area's perimeter. Part of setting the perimeter for the Soldiers involved incorporating the unit's Humvees into the defense.

Kinder, who lives in Holts Summit, said the unit had to make sure that there were good cross sections of fire, no undefended areas and a reactionary plan for friendly or aggressive individuals approaching the base perimeter.

Leading the defense was 1st Lt. Kalli Fox, one of two officers among the 35. It was the first field training exercise for Fox as the 835th's Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander, which she took over in June.

"I'm loving it," Fox said of the exercise. "I really enjoy what I am doing and I like to be able to have the chance to be so close to all of the Soldiers."

The exercise consisted of the opposing forces taking two cracks at the defense. In both attempts, the opposing forces disguised themselves as civilians, derived a scam to gain access to the area and speak with the commander, Fox, in an attempt to gather information about the unit's defenses.

Fox said it was a good review for her on what information she can and cannot share with civilians about a mission.

"I have been in training situations - different schools where we've done a lot of that, but that stuff is always confusing because the rules of engagement are always changing," said Fox, of Saint Charles. "The civilians always want something else from you, and you are always trying to follow the rules the best you can to accommodate them."

In their first attempt, the opposing forces divided and attacked with equal personnel from the front and back. The Guardsmen rebuffed that attack without sustaining any losses and presented a particularly challenging defense in its back.

The opposing forces next effort, a direct, all-out frontal attack, was more successful as it took out several defenders, before the defenders prevailed.

"I was so confident in the back of the perimeter and how well we had it spaced out and strongly defended," Fox said. "I think I failed a little bit in defending the front more."

With limited communications resources, Kinder said the unit would have been able to react better to the attacks with more walkie-talkie radios dispersed throughout the Guardsmen.

"That is an improvement that is easily obtained and I think we can have that done before we do this again," Kinder said.

Overall, Kinder was pleased with how the less experienced members of the unit performed in the exercise.

"We did a quick survey of how many folks had been deployed and very few hands went up in comparison to what I thought it would be," she said. "Those younger Soldiers that hadn't seen this before stepped in and did an awesome job. I was very impressed with their ability to do what needed to be done."

She also was pleased with the unit's enthusiasm for a drill away from the home armory.

"When it comes to getting out in the field and actually getting hands on, that's when the 'hooah' comes out in every Soldier," Kinder said.

Spc. Brittany Bond, who lives in Jefferson City, agreed.

"The hands-on experience is a lot better than reading from a book how to do something," she said. "You get to put all of that knowledge to use. It's good knowledge for when you get deployed."

Bond said she learned a lot from the exercise, from how to keep her sector of fire open to how to react when being ambushed. Her favorite part of the exercise was defending the direct, frontal attack.

"That was a lot of fun," she said. "Nobody likes just sitting there waiting."

After recently graduating from basic training, Pfc. Kayle Ballew, who lives in Jefferson City, said he enjoyed seeing how the Humvees could be used in defense.

"This training was very valuable as far as battle tactics," Ballew said. "There was a lot of stuff that we didn't learn when going through basic training, like how to set up a perimeter when there are vehicles involved."

Ballew added that he used blanks while in basic training, so firing the paintballs gave the exercise a more realistic feel and an emphasis on finding cover.

"The fact that you actually have projectiles coming through the air at you, you learn that you have to worry more about your surroundings," he said. "You have to hide behind things that can possibly throw projectiles off course to avoid you being hit."

For her personal performance leading the unit through the exercise, Fox said she would give herself a 'B.'

"We got everything out here and set-up safely," she said. "Our first iteration of the attack went extremely well and the second not-so-well. But for the field training exercise as a whole is definitely a 'B,' not an 'A,' because I'd always like to improve."

She credited all of her success to the Soldiers in the unit.

"Anything I do well is just a product of what they've all done," she said. "I love this unit and like working with everybody that is here. More than other units that I've been in, everyone really does the right thing. This is just the greatest unit to command because everyone is already doing what they need to be doing when they need to be doing it and working hard."

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