Originally created 08/18/00

Advanced battalion hones its field skills



"Psst."

The armed soldiers carefully turned as "Hector Gonzalez" appeared from among the trees in Fort Gordon's training area.

An officer in the "federal police force," Gonzalez, better known as Staff Sgt. Luis Quiceno of the 442nd Signal Battalion, had a little information to share and hoped for some information from them in return.

"Yesterday, they gave me passwords and coordinates. Today they are more careful. They said, `I'll give it to you later,'ƒ" Staff Sgt. Quiceno said, his face covered with camouflage paint.

Staff Sgt. Quiceno played the part of double agent Gonzalez in a training exercise for Advance Individual Training (AIT) soldiers. The exercise, which had lighthearted overtones including the Gonzalez character, started Wednesday and is scheduled to end today.

About 65 AIT soldiers spent the three days honing field skills. This is the first time Fort Gordon has offered a field exercise to AIT soldiers in at least eight years, said Maj. Doug Wolfe, battalion operations officer with the 442nd.

Members of the 442nd served as trainers for the event.

"We haven't done one out of monetary constraints," said Maj. Wolfe. In addition to having classroom training, the exercise featured two major components - land navigation training and nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) training.

While one group trained with land navigation, the other worked with NBC. They switched the following day.

The AIT soldiers were split up into small squads with about five members each. In four hours, the groups had to find seven points on a map. They were given a map, compass and protractor and a hint from the mysterious Hector Gonzalez.

Among the points they had to find were a rope bridge and an antenna. "Most of them found four of the seven yesterday," said Maj. Wolfe. While providing valuable training, the exercise also offered the chance for a little fun. There was a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor.

Hector Gonzalez's other allegiance was to a scavenger unit, which was set up to steal goods from the American forces.

On Thursday, it was the goal of the American soldiers to keep Gonzalez's group from taking away the "precious cargo trunk."

"This is fun, but they are getting some realistic training," said Capt. Marcus Johnson, commander of the 442nd's D Company.

Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at (803) 441-6927 or czbrackett@hotmail.com.