CAPSTONE is the final exercise in the training here at Ft Riley. It is meant as a final verification of all the things we have learned here. It was technically a 2 day event, but one day was spent in preparation and one on execution of the plan. The key leaders of our team nominated me to continue as tactical commander for this last exercise. We had to meet up with our 'ANA' counterparts, meet them and plan through an interpreter to visit at least 2 villages in order to meet with the elders, police, and mayors of each of these cities. The standard warning order and then Op Order were given the day prior. We left at 0630 after our Pre Combat checks and inspections. My truck commanders came with me to meet the 'ANA' Colonel. I had just time to give frag (fragmentary) orders to modify our plan and how we were to assist the ASA by providing external security of each area.
It was a hectic morning. In the first village I met with 9 leaders of the various surrounding villages in Dari and the obligatory chai. Luckily my interpreter was very good and she could keep up with the conversation. I could pull a little dari out of the conversation myself: Hospitals, schools, taliban, Americans. In short order there was an unruly crowd of 20 agressive locals outside the meeting place; shots were fired. My battle buddy was in the meeting with me. (the URF) was monitoring the radio while I was deflecting most questions to my 'ANA' counterpart as the authority who can address their issues. Soon the 'ANA' Col. said it was time to go right as many more shots rang out. A vehicle born IED had driven up past a checkpoint and my troops had taken care of it with one of our men simulated as injured. He had first aid and we booked out of town as I called a MEDEVAC. We had a good ole time on the roads in our HMMWV's since they were very muddy. In the second village there was to be a death gratuity payment. The father, however, would not accept the money and another ruckus started in the courtyard outside. This time a bomb simulated hitting our medic. The crowd of 20-30 people went berserk. We had just adjourned the meeting with the father and village elder as I walked outside. One of our Army soldiers was tending to the wounded medic. As he reached across to secure the medics weapon he hit the trigger and it went off- pointed right at my right leg. This was personally an eye opener for me. Luckily it was a blank and the rifle had a blank firing adaptor. Another MEDEVAC request and another pickup outside of town. The ANA Col. and I had a last regrouping meeting on the road. He had intel on an Al Qaeda operative in a nearby village and was moving to apprehend him at another village. We expected even more resistance in this last village, but the operation went pretty well. We got the bad guy, none of my team got hurt- although it appeared one of the troops did point a weapon in the direction of one of the ANA. On further review by the referees this was at the request of the 'ANA' play actors- just trying to get us in trouble. The day was finished with an IED hit, with a hasty recovery to tow the vehicle, while one of the truck commanders called in the 9 line IED.
Overall it was very overwhelming and therefore realistic. I learned a lot and I think overall it was a final confidence builder for the team.
Today was the final day of training. Our final ceremony, complete with a rousing acapello chorus of Anchors Aweigh, is over and we leave for a quick stop to our homes late tonight.
I believe the training has prepared us as much as can be expected. My sincere hope is that I will not need to use all of it.