First Army mentors mission command process during Vibrant Response
August 19, 2013
CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. -- During the recent Vibrant Response exercise, 205th Infantry Brigade trainer/mentors worked with headquarters' staff elements, training on mission command processes during a command post exercise. While First Army trainer/mentors have traditionally focused on Soldier and unit-level training, they have recently expanded their training lens to include providing mission command trainers.
"It's different for a headquarters. How do you take all that information, distill it down to what is really important, share and action it efficiently and effectively as possible?" asked Lt. Col. Aaron West, commander of the 1-290th Field Artillery Battalion, 205th Infantry Brigade, Camp Atterbury, Ind. "Time is ticking. The knowledge required to send orders that integrate and synchronize elements over wide distances must be gathered quickly so that these supporting forces can help relieve human suffering as soon as possible."
There are plenty of technical subject matter experts are on the ground to mentor Soldiers on how to triage, treat, and evacuate citizens during a catastrophic incident, added West. However, there are few who can mentor a headquarters staff on how to do mission command processes.
"Company-level leadership is more direct, because the people they lead are typically within arms' reach. However, commanders and their staffs at the battalion level and above are organizational leaders," said West, a trainer/mentor for the 31st Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Brigade, Alabama National Guard, during the recent Vibrant Response exercise. "That means they are responsible for integrating and synchronizing a large number of elements: Soldiers, CBRN units, first responders, who are expected to come together at the right place and time. It's very complex."
Lt. Col. Brian Naugher, 31st CBRN chief of staff, agreed the key to success is being able to accurately and timely process information.
"The trainer/mentors helped us identify some areas in our processes that could be more efficient, specifically helping us paint a better picture for the commander of the units, which he may not be familiar with and that may be attached to us during a CBRN response," Naugher said. "In any job, intimately knowing one's duties and being able to integrate into the rest of the team in a workplace is vital. Even though this staff is a tight knit group and we have worked together closely for months, we still had room for improvement."
One of those areas was how valuable the public affairs officer is in the operation process.
"One of the most important parts of this type of mission is being able to properly inform people how to find the help they need," Naugher said. "The PAO ensures that this message is being disseminated to the widest possible extent."
This training will serve as the validation for units assuming the nation's CBRN Response Enterprise mission. The Alabama National Guard unit, which was validated in 2012, is scheduled to serve in the capacity of Task Force Operations for another two years. Since most of its Soldiers are traditional Guardsmen and drill only one weekend a month and have annual training for 15 days a year, training time is precious.
Naugher explained that during the training exercise, he kept in mind the enormous weight of sadness he and his Soldiers would face if the task force was activated to respond to a devastating, large-scale, CBRNE event.
"We all count it as a great honor to be chosen for this task, and we work each day to ensure we are ready when called on by a nation in need," Naugher said.
Maj. Chad Daniels, another trainer/mentor during the exercise, said it's not surprising more reserve-component units are turning to First Army to assist them in maintaining their readiness.
"It's important to stay committed to our communities by maintaining rapidly employable forces for governors and Northern Command in support of homeland missions," said Daniels, from the Business Transformation Office at National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C. "Many of them have deployed over the last decade and have maintained and improved on lessons learned from mobilizations and deployments. However, all of us -- whether National Guard or Active duty-- need that outside agent to take an unbiased look at how we operate."