World War I Is Long Gone, But Trench Warfare Isn't (I Saw It First-Hand)

Robert Beckhusen

Key point: The creative use of resources and available space can keep readiness high.

“Target down!” Cadet Abigail Toth shouted after unleashing a spray of buckshot. She and Sgt. Marcus Montez moved through the enemy trench. The two soldiers tried to move quickly while navigating the labyrinth of narrow, winding pathways.

It was part of a trench clearing exercise on Aug. 4 with soldiers from the 555th Engineer Brigade’s 570th Sapper Company at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Members of the company’s 2nd Platoon used the aging trench system to practice with their new M26 shotguns as well as their standard issue M4 carbines.

1st Lt. Anthony Frisone and his platoon sergeant Keith Novembre came up with the idea of assaulting a trench while combining their weapon familiarization training with close-quarters battle tactics.

“It’s better than just going to a range,” Montez — the senior medic — explained. “It’s a lot more tactical and it gives soldiers that feel of moving and shooting.”

Frisone said that when he and Novembre first suggested a trench clearing exercise, they received puzzled looks in response. It’s not hard to see why — trench warfare is more closely associated with 1915 than 2015. In an era of drones, stealth bombers and precision missiles, trench warfare seems downright ancient.

But there’s a method to the sappers’ madness. Frisone argued there’s a lot of value to be had in revisiting old training sites like this one.

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