FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska – The image of the Army infantryman in films and TV often falls into stereotypes filled with loud explosions, lots of yelling and kicking in doors.
The soldiers of 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division understand that while power, aggression and overwhelming force are necessary to accomplish some missions, others require adaptability, finesse and surreptitiousness.
With this knowledge and understanding, 18 battle-tested infantrymen with the 1-24th endured a weeklong test of their physical and mental capabilities here to become part of an elite team known throughout the infantry community as a scout platoon.
"The scout platoon has a completely different mission than any other line platoon," 1st Lt. Daniel Newell, scout platoon leader for 1-24th said. "The scout is the eyes and ears for the commander. No matter who or what rank they are every soldier in a scout platoon must be prepared to lead."
In combat, it's the infantry scout's job to get eyes on the enemy.
Once the enemy has been identified, scouts send up information about the enemy's size, activity, location, uniform, time of sighting and equipment, in what is known as a SALUTE report.
That information allows commanders to make accurate and sometimes life-saving decisions regarding the mission.
Being a scout is an opportunity very few infantrymen get. A Stryker infantry battalion is home to about 700 soldiers. Of those, only 24 Soldiers comprise the scout platoon.
The skills that highly trained scouts bring to the fight are invaluable, according to Newell, but he said it's what the scouts don't do that make them a truly special asset.
Scouts have historically been known as silent professionals who pride themselves on their ability to avoid detection and move silently.
"Scouts go out into the woods to hide and observe enemy positions or an enemy's route for an extended period of time," Newell said. "You need a certain type of person to be in a scout platoon."
To ensure each candidate possessed the traits necessary to be a part of the elite team, Newell and a group of his senior noncommissioned officers developed criteria to evaluate each soldiers' performance based on basic warrior tasks like land navigation, combat water survival and a 12-mile road march.
Newell said the different categories allowed the leadership to evaluate the soldier's mental and physical capabilities.
"It's not just about being physically prepared. As a scout we need mentally capable individuals also," Newell said. "I would rather take a limited number of guys to make sure we have the right type of soldier rather than taking whatever I could get to fill the slots."
For infantryman and Fiji native Spc. Penisoni Jikoiono, the scout try-outs served as more than just a test of intestinal and mental fortitude, instead it was an opportunity for him to fulfill a lifelong dream.
"I came into the Army because I wanted to be part of something. I wanted to do something different and now I have that opportunity," Jikoiono said. "It's really good training and to make this team is something to be proud of."
Newell said he's proud of the soldiers who took on the challenge.
"I was pretty impressed with the level of motivation of the guys. They enjoyed themselves and enjoyed the challenge," Newell said. "For these guys to come in and volunteer to try it out says something about them. It's definitely something to be proud of."