K-State rugby club hits field
Spc. Ivan Delgado, infantryman, Co. A, 1st Bn., 18th Inf. Regt., kneeling center, instructs Matthew Stanford, K-State Rugby Club, foreground, in individual movement techniques Sep. 20 at Fort Riley’s Douthit Multipurpose Range Complex. The club, which is partnered with the “Vanguard” Battalion and hosted dozens of Soldiers from the unit earlier this summer for a rugby clinic in Manhattan, participated in infantry tactical training and observed tank gunnery. Photo by: Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire, 2ND ABCT.
Story by: Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire
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Flankers, locks, hooks and scrum halves quickly stood up, sprinted for three to five seconds and hit the ground just as fast. Normally an anathema to these rugby players, being on the ground in this situation seemed the safest place to be.
Fifteen members and one coach from Kansas State University's Rugby Club visited the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division for a crash course in infantry tactics, including buddy-team movement drills – like three-to-five second rushes – Sept. 20 at the Douthit Multipurpose Range Complex. Club members also saw M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks and their crews conduct platoon live-fire gunnery.
"We had no idea what to expect coming out here. I was pleasantly surprised," said Danny Blea, one of the club's coaches. "I knew we were going to see some heavy-duty armor, but I didn't know we were going to get a first-hand experience of what the military really does, and that's the best part about today."
The visit was a way for the "Vanguard" Battalion to repay the club for its hospitality earlier this summer, said Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee Magee, commander, 1st Bn., 18th Inf. Regt. Dozens of Soldiers from the unit participated in a rugby clinic at Memorial Stadium at K-State's campus, where they learned basic rugby moves, including passing and some of the rules of the game.
The university also has played an instrumental role in aiding Soldiers with the 2nd ABCT, who are deploying to Africa as part of its regional alignment mission, by providing regional experts and natives at the brigade's periodic weeklong training exercise known as Dagger University.
"We brought the K-State guys out here, and we're just showing them a little bit about what we do," said Spc. Justin Higgins, infantryman, Co. A, 1st Bn., 18th Inf. Regt.
Upon their arrival at the range, the rugby players were greeted by a platoon with Co. A, 1st Bn., 18th Inf. Regt., who taught them the basics of individual, buddy, team and squad-level movement, both with and without body armor and a helmet. Once they showed competence in movement, it was time for more advanced scenarios. "Vanguard" Battalion Soldiers laid in wait for squads of rugby players, the Soldiers armed with blank ammunition, to test the rugby players' abilities.
Most of the team members were surprised by what they learned and also humbled by how difficult everything was, despite how easy it might look from the outside.
"The guns are a lot heavier than I thought. I had the (M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon) when I was going out there, with the big old drum, and it's heavier than it looks," said Darryl Bell, a senior hook, majoring in biological systems engineering at K-State. "Some of us have handled guns before, but we haven't gone through these movements that these guys get to do."
Despite some difficulties, it seemed apparent that rugby and squad infantry tactics have a lot in common.
"Communication, moving around in a wedge, how to be a leader (are important), which can play in to rugby as well," Higgins said. "You're going to have guys on the field moving around in different scenarios so leadership is important."
"I really appreciate what happened today because it was really a good learning experience for our guys off of the rugby field," he said. "A lot of the things they do on the rugby field are just what these guys do – communication is such a big thing, and it just mimics rugby so closely."
After the field training, the team went to the tower at the range to observe tank platoons with Co. C, 1st Bn., 18th Inf. Regt. conduct gunnery. While watching the gunnery, team members ate Meals-Ready-to-Eat, as Soldiers with Co. A assisted them and made recommendations on the best ones.
"When we had the Army guys come out with us, they were telling us they'd have us out here, and I got so excited and said, 'I'm coming,' right off the bat," Bell said. "I appreciate being able to come out here, and I appreciate everything that these guys do for us."