The Irish Defence Forces Cavalry Corps secured an invitation to the biannual International Scout Competition (The Gainey Cup) in Fort Benning, Georgia.
Hosted by the Commandant of the United States Army Armour School, the competition, named in the honour of Command Sergeant Major (Retired) William ‘Joe’ Gainey, regularly includes selected scout squads from the U.S Cavalry formations and Allied Nations. Encompassing a week of physically and mentally demanding events, the Gainey Cup showcases the competence, physical and mental stamina and competitive spirit of Cavalry Scout Troopers. Gainey Cup winners are recognized as the best scout squad in the world. Twenty-two six-person teams from around the world were tested in every aspect of the scout skillset with events focusing on reconnaissance and security, navigation, stealth infiltration and exfiltration, observation, target positive identification (PID), team communication, physical endurance, stress shooting, Live Fire Tactical Training, call for fire and vehicle identification. The competition was conducted over a 6-day period and had teams engaged in 15 events testing over 55 military skills. A team drawn from the 1st Armoured Cavalry Squadron in the Curragh Camp represented the Irish Defence Forces. The team did particularly well in a Squad Live Fire Exercise as part of an area reconnaissance tasking where they were the outright winners. The scenario included "patrolling into an area, identify and engage multiple close in targets simulating an advancing enemy. A tactical withdrawal being hunted by an enemy force" finished the scenario as they tactically withdrew to the safety of a pickup point. The team achieved a perfect score in this event, winning the event outright.
Despite extreme temperatures, little to no rest, unfamiliar environments, and foreign weapons, the 1st Armoured Cavalry Squadron team placed 11th overall out of the 22 of the best scout teams from around the world. Their team spirit, communication, enthusiasm, and the comradeship they brought to each event was commended throughout. At the award ceremony, the Irish team was the only other team alongside the overall winners (13th Light Brigade, Royal Netherlands Army) to receive a standing ovation. Irish Defence Forces participation at the Gainey Cup highlighted the world class scouts produced by the Irish Army Cavalry Corp, and the Defence Forces on the International Stage.
In March this year, the 1st Armoured Cavalry Squadron team consisting of squad Leader Lt Alex McNamara, Team Leader Sgt Kevin Conlon, Scout Cpl Anthony Sheehy, Scout Trooper (Tpr) Gabrielius Garbencius, Scout Tpr Declan Behan, Scout Tpr Oisin Duffy began an intense training programme designed and overseen by coaches, Comdt Thomas Tooher, RSM James Scanlon and Army Ranger Wing subject matter experts.
Arriving at Fort Benning late on 23rd April, the team began an intense training program to familiarise themselves with new weapon systems, the U.S Army doctrine, Comms equipment, Call for fire procedures and Scout reports. All whilst acclimating to the unrelenting Georgian heat with morning physical training sessions.
The 28th April saw the commencement of the pre competition team sequencing. As a result of Irelands team performance, over 4 sequencing events, the team were given the opportunity to self-select the specified order of competition events.
Event 1 pitted all teams against each other in a combined score range practice. Using the M4 weapon system teams engaged 40 pop up targets, changed multiple magazines, whilst adopting different firing positions in a 3-minute timeframe.
Event 2 began early in the morning with a 5-mile Recon run. At the end of the 5 miles teams were asked a number of questions in relation to the route.
Event 3 was a 50 question U.S military doctrine and vehicle identification exam.
Event 4 was a stress shoot that saw squads conduct a maneuverer live fire event to evaluate their individual strength, endurance and ability to accurately engage threats in a time constrained environment.
Tuesday 02nd May began at 0600hrs with a communication lane. Using a Sincgar and Harris radio, the squad was instructed to construct a field Athena and send a multiple coded message to Arizona, over 2500km away. Having successfully completed this event the squad was broken into groups of 2 for the call for fire event. Using an artillery simulator, teams had to identify, adjust fire and neutralise the enemy threat within a given timeframe. Following this event, the team was moved to a location where each member was randomly allocated one of the weapons systems they had conducted training on a few days previously. Each member had to dissemble, reassemble, perform a safety function check and complete immediate action drills on the new weapon systems under time constraints. Events on this day concluded with a conditioning course. This extremely physical obstacle course blended strength, endurance, speed and technique in order to manoeuvre through the course as a team. Two rounds of the course culminated with a 30ft rope climb, which tested each team member’s individual physical condition and mental fortitude.
After some food, rest and a lot of water the team was ready to attack the next day of events.
At 0500hrs the team took off on its land navigation event. The terrain for the navigation event was a blend of intricate cross country track systems coupled with dense forest jungle type terrain. This event proved to be a strong point for the Defence Forces Cavalry team, with all members completing the event in under 2 and a half hours. Event two saw the team employ the U.S medical principle of TCCC (Tactical causality combat care). They were assessed in their ability to render medical aid to two "half a million-dollar dummies" equipped with lifeline sensors. Having quickly accessed and addressed the wounds, the team performed a successful casevac and medivac out of the area. The last event of the day required the team to conduct vehicle identification as they looked through the feed of an unarmed surveillance drone.
The final day began earlier again. At 0400hrs the team set off on its Route Reconnaissance event. During the event the team was required to disseminate information from an Operational Order and gather information on the route with a focus on the curvature and gradient of the route. The team gathered the necessary information accurately and timely before identifying an Enemy Observation Post, destroying the Enemy by putting in a successful flanking manoeuvre attack. The next event was a squad live fire exercise as part of an area reconnaissance tasking. Having patrolled into an area, the squad identified and engaged multiple close in targets simulating an advancing enemy after which teams were hunted by an enemy force as they tactically withdrew to the safety of a pickup point. The team achieved a perfect score in this event, winning the event outright. The last event of the day saw the squad conduct an Observation Post Screen action in conjunction with other competitor teams.
Having completed the tactical reconnaissance and security tasking the team enjoyed a quick power nap before beginning the final competition event “The final charge”. Beginning with a 2 mile run the event consisted of a combination of all the events and Cavalry Scout skills that the teams were tested on over the 6 day period.