The soldiers of 1st Platoon, Apache Troop, 1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, loaded up and became the first-ever unit to conduct Stryker maneuver exercises with live ammunition at Fort Hood.

The platoon is leading the regiment in training on the vehicles that have dominated other more infantry-centric installations, but arrived at armor-heavy Fort Hood just seven months ago.

For most of November, the platoon has trained in a variety of scenarios, first learning to incorporate the vehicle itself, and then to use its weapons capabilities.

Lt. Col. Steve Cho, commander of the “Tiger Squadron,” visited the platoon Thursday to observe the training and evaluate its tactical maneuvers as well as the live-fire capabilities.

“They are training to be certified as a platoon to deploy with any unit and conduct platoon-level combat operations,” he said.

Thursday’s scenario required platoon leader 2nd Lt. Dave Linder to not only command his four Strykers, but to also call for live fire from mortarmen and snipers as needed.

In the mission, the platoon needed to travel down a road, suppress the enemy, then clear a trench and a building.

“It was a little stressful,” Linder said as he completed the mission and more than 40 men unloaded from the vehicles for an after-action review. “It gets your adrenaline rushing more than using blanks.”

The training, he said, was excellent to get everyone comfortable with the .50-caliber machine gun and “lets the guys get used to shooting next to you and over you.”

“With all the assets here today, you can’t ask for more than that,” he said.

Spc. Joseph Bennet took his first live shots as a member of the “Brave Rifles” regiment Thursday and said firing from the Stryker felt more like playing a video game than shooting a powerful machine gun.

The gunner fires from inside the vehicle using a monitor to identify targets.

“It’s different, because you’re not hands-on; your hand is not on a trigger,” Bennet said. “It’s more virtual and more accurate than the naked eye.”

The scenario conducted by Linder’s platoon would have taken the average infantry platoon an hour to complete, but with Strykers, they were in and out of danger in about 20 minutes.

“It’s like when you were in junior high and you had to ride your bike everywhere. Then at 16, suddenly you can drive,” Cho said.

The platoon is training first because it has all of its equipment. Only two of the three infantry troops in Tiger Squadron have Strykers and the equipment needed to train.

Cho said the entire squadron should be equipped by the end of January. The entire regiment should be able to come together for training by the end of March.