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Obstacle Course at the Eastern Signal Corps Training Center, 1943

Obstacle Course at the Eastern Signal Corps Training Center, 1943

Team C4ISR and CECOM are continually researching, refining, evaluating, fielding, and testing communications and electronics devices to keep the Warfighter on the cutting edge of technology.  Much like Team C4ISR and CECOM is doing today, the Signal Corps and predecessor organizations of Team C4ISR that were part of the Signal Corps, also did during World War II, to keep the Signalers on the cutting edge.  To see an example of this, we can look at training activities that were employed at the Eastern Signal Corps Replacement Training Center (ESCRTS), based out of Fort Monmouth.  The ESCRTS, besides Fort Monmouth, also utilized numerous areas off-post, including park lands for training Signalers.

As described in the August 1943 edition of the Signal Corps Technical Information Letter (SCTIL), the lessons learned during combat resulted in the combat conditioning courses, or obstacle courses, being constantly being stiffened.  Stiffening could include duplication of noise, confusion, hardships and dangers of actual battle.  This edition of the SCTIL describes the combat course at the ESCRTS, with the intent that the information provided would be of value to other units employing the same aspect of training.

Image from the article about the obstacle course

The ESCRTS course was lain out in a circle, so no time was lost in moving groups from place-to-place.  The terrain was chosen for its “variety of features – ridges, hills, thick and light woods, open areas, draws, marshes, streams and valleys” that offered “positions for many typical field fortifications and obstacles.”

Obstacles included simulated nerve agent (simulated mustard gas) where casualties were those who doffed their mask without testing for agent, snipers firing blanks, and barbed wire entanglement.  As the squad moved through the course, machine-gun and rifle fire would break out encouraging the soldier to “hug the ground.”  Other obstacles included anti-tank guns, paratroopers, machine gun nests, and enemy bivouacs.  Battle noises were by firecrackers and blanks.  After completion of each phase, an umpire would critique the exercise on the spot.

An old house was booby-trapped, to impress upon the trainees the potential for booby traps.  Booby trapped areas could be a refrigerator searched for beer, people in rooms, or other traps.  A clattering gong would indicate the person was hit. 

Image of the replica German village

The most elaborate area was the “German village”, a long street with an intersection in the course.  Architectural detail was replicated using Post library resources.  This trap included machine gun nests, and replicated battlefield conditions.  Booby traps were also included. 

The course was four miles long.  The Soldier would receive his K-ration in the morning, and then be kept in action on the course for thirteen consecutive hours eating meals and making his one canteen of water last.  The morning after, the Company would break camp at dawn and march the eight miles to the next bivouac area.

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