Passing Knowledge through Experience
September 12, 2013
BAGRAM, Afghanistan - The mission is to execute the movement of sustainment and retrograde materiel up and down the most dangerous roads in the world; to support 1st Sustainment Command (Theater) mission in Afghanistan.
After lessons learned due to continued contact with the enemy on the Afghanistan roads, the 157th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion in support of Task Force Lifeliner, established a training course to share invaluable knowledge with incoming convoy escort team (CET) units.
"The CET Academy is a program that was derived from experience from other convoy escort teams that have been running the roads of Afghanistan," said Sgt. 1st Class Juan J. Villalobos, a convoy commander with the 359th Inland Cargo Transfer Company, 157th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion. "It's a program to give them (new soldiers) an overview of what to expect when they're out on the roads."
He continued to explain the training was envisioned and established by Lt. Col. Dean, the commander of the 157th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion and his CET units. Dean and the CET commanders came together to discuss a new plan of action. This plan of action was to ensure every Soldier upon their arrival to Afghanistan receive proper training before they negotiate the roads.
"During this training the soldiers will conduct evaluations to make sure that the platoon leaders, platoon sergeants and the convoy commanders are qualified to take junior soldiers out on the road and keep them safe on the most dangerous roads in Afghanistan," said Dean. He continued to explain that the training was broken down into different phases; a classroom part, then a hands-on, then a culminating training event where soldiers practiced under stressful conditions.
From there the soldiers went out on the road with their counterparts to see first-hand what it takes to conduct these missions, where they are sustaining troops through delivery of supplies and then retrograding those supplies that are no longer needed at remote locations. During the joint mission the incoming unit gets a chance to actually execute the role of a mission commander, convoy commander or an assistant convoy commander while they have a trained and seasoned counterpart in the trucks with them. This will allow them to prove they understand the role and gain that confidence that they are completing the task correctly and safely.
Finally, the Battalion conducts a check-on-learning. This last portion is where the soldiers go through a board process. The CET members being trained are asked questions by the battalion staff to ensure the mission handover was a success and they fully understand their roles. Once they complete this phase the soldiers are validated and certified by the battalion commander, Dean.
"The main goal is to provide situation awareness in any new SIGACTS (significant activities) or any new TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures) that we have instilled that have been productive and effective against the enemy," said Villalobos, a native of Eagle Pass, Texas.
The CET Academy fosters a training environment in which incoming soldiers can absorb the knowledge and experience of the unit they're replacing.
Villalobos stated, "What we do is we take specifics that have worked in the country of Afghanistan and that gives them a better understanding of what is going on here." He added that they don't really get this updated training when they're back in the states because everything changes daily.
"The enemy is forever changing," exclaimed Sgt. David A. Armstrong, a native of Memphis, Tenn., and a truck driver with the 850th Transportation Company, 157th CSSB. Armstrong, as a new Soldier in Afghanistan and taking the training he understands how vital this program can be to understanding their daily mission and the safety precautions that go with their task. He explained that the enemy has the ability to learn their techniques and their positions during convoys. The way to success is this type of training where one can learn from soldiers who have actually experienced missions on the road and have dealt with the insurgents.
"Personally I have run over 33 missions and I'll tell you that we did not have this training when we got here back in December," Villalobos stated. "This program, it's important, it's vital and it'll probably make their life and their job a little bit easier."