FORT PICKETT, Va. – Six Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team were selected for slots in the battalion’s scout platoon after conducting training on individual skills and team building exercises January 11, 2020, at Fort Pickett, Virginia, as part of the Scout Platoon Tryout.
Twelve Soldiers started the Scout Platoon Tryout, and the competition used many of the tasks that a Soldier would need in order to be a successful battalion scout. The tryout was a one-day event comprised of physically and mentally exhausting tasks to test the aptitude of the scout candidates. The skills tested were meticulously and intentionally selected in order to ensure only the best possible soldiers would make it through, and the goal is to test both the mental and the physical components of the candidates, explained Staff Sgt. Matthew Robbins, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the event.
“The [obstacle] course is going to show us the athleticism plus it’s going to wear them out a little bit,” Robbins said. “Then the team events are going to wear them out. We’re going to see some of the leadership abilities of most of the soldiers as they go through the team events. Also [the team event] continues to wear them out and makes them more physically tired… it drains you mentally when you’re physically tired and it’s hard to do mental tasks right. So we’ll jump into a mental task while we’re doing the physical tasks to see how they perform when they’re tired, when you’re flustered and when they’re stressed out.”
On the day of the evaluation the scout candidates conducted a five-mile road march to the land navigation course with more than 50 pounds of scout equipment on their backs. After completion of the three-hour land navigation course they road marched another mile to the air assault obstacle course. Each candidate had to complete the obstacle course individually and as a member of a team. During the team event the scout candidates also had to bring an A-bag full of sand designated as “Thomas” and simulated a wounded Soldier who needed to be transported.
“What we do is give them complicated problems with a limited set of solutions, where it’s either you stand around and try to think through it and then you get punished more or you just accept the fact that you are going to be punished while doing the task given to you,” Robbins said. “With those two choices, you’ll watch your different Soldiers who are put in leadership positions react differently and that’s going to push them to the fringe of their patients and their anger level and we want to see what that level is and where they lose their cool. The last thing you want is to be on mission down range somewhere and have somebody loses their cool.”
The candidates were also tested on their knowledge of basic infantry tasks in a round-robin style event.
“When you come to us, I don’t need somebody that is brand new and is not sure what to do,” Robbins said. “I need somebody who has been around, a little seasoned, a little salty.”
The last phase of the tryout was individual questions asked by the platoon leadership to the candidates.
“We are looking for a more mature Soldier; a more self-motivated soldier,” said 1st Lt. Benjamin Nuckols, the scout platoon leader. “[Someone] who you can trust more to take initiative when you need it. Many times they are on their own, they are way forward of the line. They have to be a more mature more dedicated Soldier.”
The infantry battalion scout platoon is a specialty platoon comprised of infantry Soldiers with the primary mission of providing the battalion commander information about the enemy and gather critical battlefield information to help the commander and his staff during the planning and execution of combat operations.