Florida Guard hosts Pathfinder course at Camp Blanding

Written by  //  September 23, 2011  //  Feature Stories, News

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21 Florida Guardsmen earn coveted Pathfinder badge

STARKE, Fla. (Sept. 23, 2011) – Twenty-one Soldiers from the Florida National Guard graduated from the Army National Guard Warrior Training Center’s Pathfinder Course at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, Sept. 23, 2011.

Of the 49 Soldiers who began the rigorous 14-day course, 33 Soldiers completed the requirements to earn the Pathfinder torch. Instructors from the Army National Guard Warrior Training Center conducted the U.S. Army Pathfinder course at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Blair Heusdens

The Soldiers endured two weeks of physically and mentally demanding training, completing several tests and requirements to earn the coveted Pathfinder torch. Pathfinders are trained to navigate dismounted, establish and operate a helicopter landing zone, establish and operate a parachute drop zone, conduct sling load operations, provide air traffic control and navigational assistance to rotary wing and fixed wing airborne operations. Their primary mission is to infiltrate areas and set up parachute drop zones and helicopter landing zones for airborne and air assault operations.

“You should be proud of your achievement,” said Maj. Taylor, a special forces Soldier who addressed the graduates. “Use this special skillset which sets you apart from the other Soldiers in your unit, to lead the way.”

Of the 49 Soldiers who started the course, 33 met the requirements to graduate – 21 of the 31 Soldiers from Florida made the cut. The Florida Soldiers came from units throughout the state including the 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group, 690th Military Police Company, 1st Squadron, 153rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Battalion, 265th Air Defense Artillery, 2nd Battalion, 111th Aviation Regiment, 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment and 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment.

Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Riehle with Troop C, 1st Squadron, 153rd Cavalry Regiment (right) receives his Pathfinder Torch after completing the U.S. Army Pathfinder course at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, Sept. 23, 2011. Instructors from the Army National Guard Warrior Training Center conducted the 14-day course at the Florida National Guard's Regional Training Institute. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Blair Heusdens

“This class was a huge opportunity for me,” said 1st Lt. Kurt Baum, with the 690th Military Police Company. “I knew it was going to be tough, but I thought it was a good skillset to have, especially around hurricane time. Back in 2005 we did hurricane duty in Miami and they were looking for people who could slingload pallets of water and none of us knew how, so I figured this would be a good peacetime skillset to have.”

 

Taylor also echoed the value of Pathfinder skills in stateside missions as well as overseas.

“I’ve had to rely heavily on my pathfinder skills throughout my military career,” said Taylor. “I’ve used my skills in the combat zones of Iraq, Afghanistan and South and Central America. But you don’t have to be in a combat arms unit to find yourself on an overpass in New Orleans after a hurricane such as Katrina, vectoring in rotary wing aircraft to rescue and evacuate civilians as the waters continue to rise.”

1st Lt. Christopher Barton with Troop C, 1st Squadron, 153rd Cavalry Regiment is pinned with the Pathfinder Torch after graduating from the U.S. Army Pathfinder course taught at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center by instructors from the Army National Guard Warrior Training Center, Sept. 23, 2011. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Blair Heusdens

Most recently during OIF and OEF, Pathfinders have found their doctrine changing to include operations in platoon-sized elements to hunt down high-value targets, create division-size forward arming and refueling points and inspecting certified rigged slingloads.

The Soldiers in the class put in long hours completing the rigorous technical training and studying the complex material to achieve a 67 percent graduation rate, the highest for the Army National Guard Warrior Training Center this year.

Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Riehle with Troop C, 1-153rd took the time to prepare for the course beforehand by studying the material and talking to people who had already been though the course. “We sent several people in 2008 when [the Warrior Training Center instructors] came here and I drew from their knowledge, took their notes and started reading ahead so that it wasn’t new to me when we came in here.”

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