FORT POLK, LA — "Feet, guide hand, break hand!" yelled Kate Cannon of Utah, staff member for Senator Mike Lee, as she rappelled down a 34-foot tower at Fort Polk's air assault course Feb. 20 during a visit of Congressional delegates from Washington, D.C.
First Sgt. Robert Ferguson, 814th Multi-Role Bridge Company, 46th Engineer Battalion, 1st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and a cadre of air assault qualified instructors from 1st MEB, trained the Congressional staff members on how to properly tie a hip rappel seat, also known as a Swiss seat. They then demonstrated how to properly hook up a rappel seat to an anchor point to prepare for rappel. The staff was timed to air assault standard while rappelling off the 15-foot slant wall and the 34-foot tower.
While waiting his turn on the tower, Will Anderson of Georgia, staff member for Congressman David Scott, said, "We really benefited a lot from getting this first-hand training. I recommend this for as many staffers as possible to help them get an idea of what you guys (Soldiers) go through and how we can best support you."
Fort Polk welcomed 23 Congressional delegates to the Home of Heroes Feb. 19. Once a year, delegates have an opportunity to travel to a military post and train on Soldier equipment and see what Soldiers do on a daily basis. This year, Fort Polk, "the Best Hometown in the Army," was the installation chosen for the Congressional staff members to get an up-close look at Army units.
1st MEB and the Joint Readiness Training Center Operations Group supported the Congressional staff members' visit by displaying equipment used during Defense Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Response Force missions and deployment readiness training. Each unit presented their focus with the 1st MEB DCRF mission and Task Force Operation's Deployment Readiness mission to the delegates.
"I work for Senator John A. Barrasso. The defense issues and military fall under my area," said Elisabeth Perry, of Casper, Wyo. "I was surprised to
learn about the four branches and how they are set up and run. I got a sneak peek at the Army and what happens on the readiness side."
"Watching Soldiers in Operations Group get culture training was fascinating," said Perry.
The Congressional staff did not just watch training and tour the installation. They had an opportunity to get down and dirty with some Soldier activities.
"We started with chow at the dining facility," said Anderson. "I think it was pretty good. We toured Fort Polk and met with Afghan role players and
people training to be advisors. We were in simulators and drove simulated HMMWVs."
Staff members also conquered the 1st MEB obstacle course.
"They were highly motivated," said Staff Sgt. Jacob Sprawl, operations NCO for 1st MEB. "The majority performed exceptionally well under adverse
"We crawled (under) barbed wire, getting dirty, jumping, spinning, you name it. I feel good -- this has been the best thing I could have done for my job so far," said Perry.
Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st MEB, led the delegates through the obstacle course. They demonstrated each obstacle for the staff member, then let them give it a try. "It was a great experience. This is not something you can do around Washington, D.C.," said Perry. "I feel
Soldiers with the 88th Brigade Support Battalion demonstrated the 984 recovery truck/wrecker and gave a class on DCRF training and the 1st MEB
The 88th BSB also trained the Congressional staff on military weapons at a live fire exercise on Range 34. The staff fired the M2 .50 Cal, Mark 19,
M240B, M203 and the M4. Staff members then maneuvered through two grenade lanes, receiving a go or no-go on high crawl, low crawl and bounding. By completing these lanes, the staff learned the three basics of being a Soldier -- shoot, move and communicate.
"I'm excited to get out here and get a first-hand look," said Matt Haskins of Mooresville, N.C. and representative for Richard Hudson. "This is great
for folks (that) spend time around the military, hearing about (live fires) but never getting to go out and do (it)."
"This was a good exchange," said Haskins. "Soldiers have an opportunity to ask what we do day-to-day and we interacted with Soldiers. Some people don't understand how what we do directly impacts policy."
The visit provided insight into the lives of military personnel, their families, and how military training is conducted within various commands on
"Every single person has such a unique and amazing story. Every time you get to talk to one of these service members, no matter if they're enlisted or officer, you learn something so new about the military, that people like me, I hate to say, that are stuck inside the (Washington, D.C.) bubble (don't get to see)," said Joshua Salpeter of Miami, Fla.
"The guys here on the ground are more open. We get to interact with them and really make a connection."