School in Session for Strykers
By Andrew Sheeler
Sun Star Reporter
“No shit, there I was!” Every good army story starts like that, said 2nd Lt. Adam Robitaille of the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment (3-21st). Nearby, Stryker vehicles equipped with mortars were busy blasting a hillside roughly three miles away. The soldiers of the 3-21st call themselves the Gimlet, which is a large drill designed to break rock. Their motto of “Bore, brother, bore” speaks not to breaking rock but breaking their enemies.
The 3-21st’s classroom is the mountainous Yukon Training Area south of Eielson Air Force Base. Their curriculum includes hauling 100 pounds of food, water, gear, armor, ammunition and weaponry in frigid, windy conditions as they test out the capabilities of both themselves and the Strykers that carry them. The final exam comes next year, when they venture down to California for a large-scale training exercise in anticipation of a spring 2011 deployment to Afghanistan.
For Sgt. Matthew Wood, it’s all about motivation. Nicknamed “The Woodpecker” by his comrades, Wood is quick to label his fellow soldiers as “motivated” or “lacking motivation.” Wood is attending Army Ranger school this winter, and looks forward to watching other would-be Rangers drop out.
“I thrive on the despair of others,” Wood said.
Wood also thrives on barking orders and delivering reprimands, such as when Spc. Sean Sweeney, a UAA graduate who enlisted to help pay his college bills, is a little too slow to open a gate and allow a Stryker carrying the battalion commander through.
Others in the 3-21st are a bit more stoic. 2nd Lt. Joshua Robinson is a tall, broad-shouldered man with a quick smile. He downplays his numerous accomplishments, including graduating from West Point with degrees in International Relations and Arabic and successfully completing the grueling Army Ranger training. Robinson majored in Arabic with the intent of using it in Iraq. With the focus of the U.S. military now on Afghanistan, Robinson is confident that his language skills will help him learn the local languages, including Farsi and Pashtun.
The 3-21st will be in the Yukon Training Area for a few weeks. During that time they will engage in numerous live-fire and combined arms exercises designed to hone their abilities and better prepare them for the harsh challenges of the coming months.