FORT PICKETT, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia National Guard soldiers are training for combat all while battling this heatwave. At Fort Pickett in Blackstone, nearly 3,000 soldiers are in the midst of three weeks of ‘eXportable Combat Training Capability’ — or ‘XCTC.’
“It’s been hot, I can tell you that much,” said Captain Matthew Perham.
Perham, of Falls Church, is a Troop Commander for the Virginia National Guard. On Thursday, he and several dozen other soldiers participated in the “mounted machine gunnery” training.
Humvees were seen going through the motions of a tactical exercise to practice engaging enemy targets in the rolling hills of Virginia.
“It allows the gun crew to kinda gel together, get used to working together, so they can go forward here in the next couple of days and start shooting blank — then live rounds,” said Perham.
By this weekend, the soldiers are expected to be firing live ammunition from the guns on top of their humvees. XCTC is part of yearly training for the Virginia National Guard.
Completing the training ‘validates’ these platoons — letting the Army know these soldiers are ready and prepared for active duty anywhere in the world.
Meantime, the soldiers are finding ways to beat the heat — staying hydrated and finding shady areas between parked military vehicles. Despite temperatures hovering around 100 degrees, XCTC is carried out in full body armor.
“Wars aren’t fought in perfect weather so we try training for as many different conditions as we can,” said Perham.
As these soldiers train in simulated combat conditions, they’re also living the way they would in a warzone.
Perham says its been a few days since he’s had a shower and platoons are camping in the woods of Fort Pickett. Still — he’s in good spirits.
“It’s a good day to be in the Army,” Perham tells 8News.
XCTC consists of soldiers from both Virginia and Kentucky National Guards. The rotations of 14-day continuous field training last from July 13 until Aug. 2 on Fort Pickett.