Bayonet: still used, still important
FORT JACKSON, S.C. (TRADOC News Service, Oct. 21, 2005) - "Buttstroke to the head followed by a thrust serie-eeeee-s, move!"
Stress relief or survival training?
Basic combat training Soldiers who have negotiated the Bayonet Assault Course would say it's a little of both.
Each week, up to 1,200 BCT Soldiers experience the challenge of the 500-meter course that features seven obstacles, including a 6-foot log wall.
Prior to arriving at the course, drill sergeants teach Soldiers-in-training the moves they'll use on the course, stressing the importance of safety while training.
Staff Sgt. Nicholas Hatchett, course noncommissioned officer in charge, said he and other course cadre do a thorough inspection before troops arrive to ensure the course is safe and targets are serviceable.
"A risk assessment is done prior to a unit's arrival," Hatchett said. "We give a safety brief before the Soldiers begin, and the drill sergeants reinforce what we've said."
As Soldiers file onto the bleachers for a demonstration and course briefing, they are issued a dummy weapon and a very real bayonet.
Drill sergeants and course cadre teach Soldiers the basics of the range, including the location of water points and required uniform.
Then, the moment the Soldiers have anticipated finally arrives.
Sounds of call and response echo through the air as a drill sergeant issues commands from the tower of the practice range. The troops answer with shouts of motivation and thrusts of bayonet-fixed weapons into dummy targets.
Hatchett said the practice course familiarizes Soldiers with the moves they've learned before they go to the real course.
Finally, it's time for the real thing: Soldiers against the course.
Though the course is not a pass-or-fail option, participation is mandatory for BCT graduation.
At combat speed, Soldiers negotiate obstacles like the balance logs and the target in the trench, while keeping their weapons at the low ready position.
Hatchett said he thinks the fence vault is the most difficult obstacle.
"It's at the end of the course, and the Soldiers are tired by then," he said.
Drill sergeants are stationed at each obstacle to ensure safety and guide Soldiers through the course.
Given the technologically advanced nature of the Army, some people might think bayonet training is outdated.
Course cadre member Staff Sgt. Michael Commander, who has been deployed to Iraq, said the training Soldiers receive on the course is invaluable.
"If you run out of ammo in a combat environment, you've got to use hand-to-hand combat," Commander said. "That's where the bayonet comes in."
Commander's field-artillery unit was issued bayonets before deploying.
After a long day of training, Soldiers police up the course and head for the barracks. The spirit of the bayonet lingers in the air, awaiting the arrival of the next group of highly motivated warriors.