COMBINED ARMS TRAINING CENTER CAMP FUJI, Japan – Before any hand grenades could blast more shrapnel into a pockmarked range, anticipation filled the air as 60 live grenades were taken out of their cardboard canisters and distributed to Soldiers.
From a concrete pit that overlooked the small range, Spc. Jermayn Griffo tossed two of the grenades, creating loud booms that echoed through a surrounding wooded area near Mount Fuji.
“I was a little bit nervous, but once I got down there and remembered the training that I received I was comfortable with throwing the grenades,” said Griffo, an information technology specialist.
While it was “a rush” to hear and feel the nearby explosions, Griffo said the best part of the training was learning from the lane safeties.
“For me, it’s more about getting the proper techniques down,” he said, “so I’ll know how to deploy them without having a safety there.”
Griffo and about 30 other Soldiers assigned to the 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion qualified on grenades Nov. 2 during a week of live-fire training that also included small arms and crew-served weapons to better prepare the unit for possible base defense missions.
“We want our unit to be ready if duty calls,” said Staff Sgt. Saony Lopez, an operations noncommissioned officer who helped organize the training event. “So it is important for us to continue to make sure our Soldiers are ready and comfortable executing basic Soldier skills.”
Lopez served as one of the safeties during the live grenade event, in which each Soldier demonstrated the procedures of throwing a grenade.
She also had the chance to toss grenades, the first time she has been able to do so since she went through basic training 12 years ago.
“For every Soldier that gets to do this, it’s very exciting,” she said. “It gets them comfortable and builds more confidence … to be ready to engage [the enemy] at any time.”
The battalion has steadily honed its readiness through recent training events that had Soldiers brave a gas chamber as well as a Best Warrior Competition.
Base security also played a key part in a weeklong field training exercise at Sagami General Depot in late September that led to last week’s live-fire training.
“When we are doing base defense we would have Soldiers with actual hand grenades on them,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Paul J. Denson, the battalion’s senior enlisted leader. “In order to ensure Soldiers know how to properly use hand grenades, we got to train for it.”
As the only U.S. Army sustainment unit in mainland Japan, Denson said that his unit has to maintain its lethality.
“Many times, as sustainers, we do not get as many sets and reps as our maneuver brothers and sisters,” he said. “To build lethality, you have to ensure that you build sets and reps and confidence. And to do that you have to come out and do the hard work.”
Soldiers working hard together can then improve unit cohesion, which Denson was able to witness on the grenade range.
“It’s not often that units throw live hand grenades,” he said. “Just receiving some of the feedback from my younger Soldiers, they’re saying that it has definitely helped them build camaraderie.
“They won’t forget this day and they won’t forget the opportunity of throwing live hand grenades and being ready if called upon.”