Season 1: Erich
He loves to snowboard, wakeboard and surf, but this extreme athlete isn’t sure if he’s ready to make the biggest move of his life.
The show you are watching is real. These people are not actors. You will follow a potential Army recruit with a backstage pass as they learn about Army life, careers and themselves. At the end, they’ll make a life-changing decision. Join the Army or remain a civilian. This recruit’s journey starts now.
Indirect fire units like artillery or mortars fire from a distance to targets they can’t see. That’s where the forward observer comes in. Working dangerously close to enemy lines, he scouts ahead to find an observation point close to an enemy position. He then radios coordinates back to the artillery, guiding their fire power over the heads of friendly troops and onto the enemy target.
Quick thinking and skilled performance under extreme stress — that’s what it takes to be a forward observer. One young man is about to experience their world-class training.
My name’s Erich Dalke, I’m from Vancouver, Washington, I’m 27 years old, and I’m thinking about joining the Army.
Look how nice it is.
We are really supportive in each other’s decisions, and we work really well together as a team.
What do you think about me joining the Army, if I decide to? You know, if I like it.
Obviously it’s going to be a life change for me and you, so…
It’s a huge decision; we’re on a team so we’ll decide together.
Yes we will.
My wife is really open to it, which is nice. Being deployed, away from my family, will probably be one of the hardest things from joining the Army.
Meet Staff Sergeant Van Forbes. He’s been deployed twice to both Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s airborne qualified and wears the Combat Action badge.
Alright everyone, listen up. This is Erich Dalke, he’s going to be tagging along with us the next few days, wants to know what it’s like to be a forward observer in the United States Army.
For Erich to even sample what’s expected of a 13 Foxtrot, he needs serious training in forward observer skills.
Have you identified your target?
FTC, this is FO just fired. Pull her over.
Just fire. Pull her out.
Safe house in tree line over.
This is the ultimate test of a forward observer’s training and skill — adjusting incoming artillery rounds to bring them directly onto the target.
We’re over the target, so…automatic correction...
So I just say, drop 400, over.
There’s definitely some stuff that I was struggling with through the class, but it’s, I think that comes with time and practice.
Erich has sampled the mental challenges of the forward observer’s job. Now he’ll get a taste its demanding physical standards.
This course looks pretty intimidating, Sergeant.
Yeah, it’s a smoker.
There you go.
Up. Jump out.
Go run another sprint. Think about it, come back.
Think about it? I already thought about it, bud.
Think about it.
They just keep running ya, so it just pushes you.
I want you to try that rope one more time.
Hey, I lost you a ways back there, Sergeant.
Let’s go, come on.
You stopped doing the exercises halfway through.
Dalke definitely started to get a little bit lippy, started disrespecting me a little bit. Get on the rope, let’s go.
Lead by example, bud.
[Inaudible] lazy, huh?
Get your pants up there, Dalke. We could do this all day long.
Come on, Dalke. Get up there.
Order and discipline is paramount in the Army, alright. Bad discipline’s infectious.
I got aggravated with him a couple times, but his discipline and everything is all just to better me as a Soldier.
This is Erich’s final test as a forward observer, in a live fire training mission with a real mortar team at his command.
Alright, that’s your target.
Standing by for fire mention when you’re ready.
Strike two, this is Able 9 Romeo. Adjust fire, polar.
Just fire out.
Direction 4-7-5-0. Distance 1600, over.
Roger safe house, open out.
Pretty close or right on it, I think.
The observer’s job isn’t done until he’s achieved effects on target. Erich’s gotta calculate precise adjustments and relay them to the mortar battery miles away.
Alright, first, what’s your automatic correction going to be?
Drop 100, over.
That’s it. The coordinates are dialed in and it’s time to fire for effect, and eliminate the target.
Add 5-0, fire for effect, over.
Alright, so you got two rounds on both sides. Let’s see where the next two land.
Drops complete, standing by for BDA, over.
It was definitely awesome to see those, the ground hit where I call them in.
Hey Erich, good to see you. Now it’s time to make your final decision. Do you want to join the U.S. Army or remain a civilian?
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