Trainer/mentors support N.J. Guard readiness
August 21, 2013
FORT PICKETT, Va. -- While the members of the 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 42nd Infantry Division, New Jersey National Guard are not currently on deployment orders that could change in the blink of an eye. With training and mentoring assistance from 188th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East, the unit recently began conducting a month-long eXportable Combat Training Capability (XCTC) to exercise their combat effectiveness.
"They are not slated to go anywhere, but coming out of this [training], they are fully qualified and available to deploy," said Capt. Garrick Worst, 1st Battalion, 306th Infantry Regiment, 188th Infantry Brigade trainer mentor.
The XCTC challenges the Soldiers with individual warrior tasks, platoon and company live fires, and other training to enhance their individual and collective skills. The 50th IBCT Soldiers were given free reign at Fort Pickett Va., using more than 35,000 acres of maneuver training area to focus on basic soldiering skills.
"The training is intensive and enjoyable. It allows my soldiers to get more than just the limited one weekend a month that they normally would," said Command Sgt. Major Earnest Williams, the senior enlisted advisor for the 3rd Battalion, 112th Field Artillery Regiment.
The 188th provided embedded trainer/mentors for all aspects of the exercise. Leaders in both the 188th and the N.J. National Guard used the brigade commander's training guidance to design various lanes to test their readiness.
Sgt. 1st Class Mario Contreras, 2nd Battalion, 306th Field Artillery Regiment was among the many senior noncommissioned officers in the 188th with at least fifteen years of direct leadership experience. Trainer/mentors use their personal deployment and leadership experience as well as Army training certification to provide realistic, relevant, and current guidance to National Guard and Reserve Component Soldiers and units.
Contreras went on to explain as a T/M, the objective is not to tell the 50th how to navigate the lane, but to provide input and guidance that can get them pointed in the right direction. In this manner, the unit learns from any mistakes made during the course of training and incorporates these lessons learned into their standard operating procedures.
"We will figure out what works for them," Contreras said.
Prior to the training exercise, the N.J. Guard commander provided the 188th his objectives and commander's intent. The 188th operations officer worked with his staff as a team to ensure the units they train receive the best experience possible.
"That drives how they lay out their XCTC event," explained Maj. Jan Urso, 188th Infantry Brigade operations officer. "The focus of the XCTC is to provide the most realistic hands-on training possible, introducing the unit to the most current available techniques, tactics, and procedures currently used in various theaters of operation."
"All those platoons and companies will have lanes, and we'll assign and embedded T/M to every single platoon," said Urso. "The T/Ms have the military occupational specialty (MOS) background that each company requires."
During the XCTC, the 50th IBCT Guardsmen brushed up on their Howitzer skills, receiving fire missions from the fire control center.
"We have to occupy and secure a firing point," said Pfc. Hangyoung Chang, a field artillery tactical system data specialist. He explained even though the team he is on is the brains of the artillery, there is room for improvement within his team.
"The T/Ms provide us with pointers, advice on where to set up to make what we do more effective," agreed teammate Spc. Steven Lepine who has previously deployed with the 50th to Iraq.
The trainer/mentors are assigned to the platoons and stay with them for the duration of training. This provides the 50th Soldiers continuity, allowing them to get used to seeing the same face, and making it easier to focus on the training because the T/M becomes part of the team.
Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Santillana, 1st Battalion, 306th Infantry Regiment, assisted Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment, 50th IBCT, with a movement to contact exercise in which they had to reach an objective while trying to outmaneuver the opposing forces. During the instrumented after action review that followed, he guided the platoon towards a more tactical strategy.
"They have to figure out their mistakes, and learn from them fast," he explained. Santillana added the sooner the Soldiers pick up on what went wrong, the faster they can move on. Each of the platoons got a chance to go through several iterations of the training before going on to company level.
The AAR provides not only feedback from the trainer/mentor, but allows the platoon to see what they did during the assault by way of video clips, so they can figure out each other's strengths and weaknesses.
"Out on the battlefield, you are to hear real gunfire, and it's important to stay in your lane. You have to maintain your sectors of fire," expressed Sgt. 1st Class Donju Frazier, the 1-114th 's platoon leader.
"The enemy will do the exact same thing we do," Frazier concluded. "It's a chess game, we've gotta get creative and spread our pieces [to win]."
The 50th IBCT is not on deployment orders, but the training and assistance provided by the 188th readies them for deployment and/or to support their state. As part of the Army's Force Generation process, after units return from a deployment, they spend a year resetting or recovering. The following year is spent training and preparing for a deployment. In the third year, they should be trained and ready to go.
The ARFORGEN process is a formal, structured progression of unit readiness over time to produce trained ready and cohesive units prepared for operational deployment in support of Army requirement and establishes the basis to plan and execute Army-wide unit resourcing.
Along with training Reserve component units, Division East trainer/mentors prepare and deploy service members for operations around the world.