Rugged terrain ideal for Nevada Army Guard training |

Rugged terrain ideal for Nevada Army Guard training


Churchill County’s outback provided a realistic landscape of both Iraq and Afghanistan for soldiers from the Nevada Army National Guard’s Joint Force Headquarters.

Approximately 60 guardsmen from many Northern Nevada communities including Fallon brushed up on their critical soldier skills this week.

Maj. Christopher Patterson, JFHQ’s outgoing commander, said soldiers who spread out their annual training with their regular soldier assignments must take advantage of certain situations when they arise.

“As a headquarters unit, our training is far and few between, but we do our Army tasks,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re all soldiers. Year-round training allows us to get away and work on marksmanship, land navigation and squad tactics and movement.”

As with any branch of service, Patterson said the military requires personnel to stay current with all their soldier skills.

“These are all perishable skills,” Patterson said. “It would be a disservice if we don’t keep sharp.”

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What makes JFHQ unique is the diversity of the unit. State headquarters includes soldiers with different skills and expertise. Many are combat veterans, while others have transferred to Carson from other units in Nevada.

“We have a lot of experience to draw upon. We have medics, maintenance people, truck drivers and finance people,” Patterson said.

The training is also diverse. Patterson, a 19-year veteran, said the rugged desert area of Churchill County provides a good simulation of the Middle East terrain. Last year, the unit trained in the mountains near Hawthorne, and on previous annual trainings, Patterson said JFHQ has used the U.S. Marine Corps’ Mountain Warfare Center nar Bridgeport, Calif., for basic solder skills or winter survival.

Every year guardsman must shoot at the range. Most soldiers are required to qualify with an M16 rifle, while others are required to complete a Combat Pistol Course.

Pfc. Alexandra Avant, a 2005 Fernley graduate, was attending her first annual training with JFHQ. The paralegal with the Judge Advocate Office said she was impressed with the range and marksmanship training.

The Nevada Army National Guard and Fallon Naval Air Station jointly run the marksmanship range 30 miles south of Fallon at Bravo 19.

“I like the marksmanship because it’s good have coaches next to us,” Avant said.

Guardsmen spent one day at a land navigation course northeast of Grimes Point, 10 miles of Fallon.

1st Sgt. Thomas Sauls said an advance party confirmed the landmarks at the David A. Fruchey Land Navigation Course.

Sauls then provided each team leader with starting points and grid coordinates to conduct the land navigation.

Lt. Col. Michael Hanifan, a Churchill County High School and U.S. Military Academy graduate, assisted one team. Although he grew up in Fallon, he said he rarely visited the area north of Grimes Point.

The team located its first grid point about 200 meters from the starting point, but the next point was in the foothills. The team finished its land navigation within the allotted time.

Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Baugh, of Dayton, a staffing technician with the guard’s human resources office, said intense training enhances basic soldier skills., especially in conducting land navigation.

“Diversity is good,” Baugh said about the training. “It gets the brain in a field mode.”

Baugh said the terrain near Grimes Point reminds many soldiers of Afghanistan’s landscape.

Guardsmen finished their training at Bravo 19. Sauls said soldiers used Air Soft firearms which replicate military weapons. Each rifle shoots small, biodegradable plastic pellets.

“Air Soft is more realistic. It makes you more conscious of what you are firing at,” he told the squads.

Guardsmen use replicas of the M16, the M-4 (a shortened version of the M16) and the 9mm pistol.

Hanifan said soldiers also received classroom instruction on IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and then conducted a sweep along a desert road looking for various bombs and booby traps.