`Land Warrior' night live-fire sheds light on future

by Spec. William A. Graves

FORT POLK, La. (Army News Service, Sept. 18, 2000) - At zero-dark-thirty in the mock city of Shughart-Gordon, the sounds of chirping crickets filled the humid Louisiana air until a shell's explosion made a nearby police station rattle.

From the distance, deep in the adjacent long-leaf pine wilderness, soldiers of the Land Warrior Platoon, (2nd Plt., C Company, 3rd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment), swarmed toward the beckoning urban fire-fight. Soldiers glanced through a display mounted to their helmet to track fellow troops. Wet and tired, they bobbed and weaved through the full-moon light using an embedded Global Positioning System and computer.

Fifty-two airborne soldiers experimented with the first integrated infantry fighting system during the Land Warrior Military Operation in Urban Terrain live-fire exercise at Fort Polk Sept. 14.

Members of the elite force made their way to the outskirts of town and scoped through the 26 multi-story buildings for their objectives. The men looked for the $48 million MOUT training facility's power station and mayor's house as dogs barked, women screamed and babies cried.

As if straight from the future, they leveraged high-tech thermal sites and other Joint Contingency Force Advanced Warfighting Experiment equipment to liberate the town and "own the night."

The Land Warrior attack proved the Army will be more lethal, situationally aware and survivable as it heads into the 21st Century, said Lt. Gen. Randall L. Rigby, experiment director.

"It was very orderly," Rigby said. "I think the movement to contact was done in a sound manner. Communications were robust throughout the entire attack. Soldiers were very pleased with their connectivity. They knew where each other was, and that's one of the premises of Land Warrior... It appears the system in this live-fire exercise worked well."

Soldiers thought it went well too.

"We kept casualties low and everything went smoothly," said Pfc. Lance C. Dunbar, Land Warrior Platoon. "I am excited to be in the platoon. It is an excellent learning experience, especially all the extra MOUT training we are getting. Shughart-Gordon is much closer to the real thing."

Dunbar said the Night Vision Goggles are incredible in urban terrain. NVGs only require one of the soldier's eyes to use them and they increase awareness both in light and dark situations. Also, the NVGs work well with the new tactical flashlight used by soldiers when they bust into dark rooms when clearing buildings.

"The helmet display helped tremendously with land navigation through the woods when we broke contact," Dunbar said.

The Land Warrior experiment also has been the advent of a great new headset that permits soldiers to transmit information back and forth to each other, he said.

"It went extremely well, and I'm pleased with the results," said Staff Sgt. David A. Crawford, Land Warrior Platoon. "The Land Warrior equipment allowed us to see targets we would have never seen without it. All the components on the modular system helped us out tremendously."

Land Warrior systems, such as the laser aim sites and thermal weapon sites, increase the platoon lethality, he said.

"The GPS is going to enhance our mobility," Crawford said. "We're going to be able to go deeper in and be more spread with the platoon. We can confuse the enemy into thinking we're a company."

He said being in the first Land Warrior platoon is special to him.

"It's an important step into the future for the infantry," Crawford said. "I feel like a founding father now. We're stamped down in the history books. It feels good."

(Editor's note: Spec. William A. Graves is a member of the 27th Public Affairs Detachment from Fort Drum, N.Y.)