Developing leaders through teamwork
November 15, 2013
Standing before a row of obstacle courses at the Leaders Reaction Course at Ft. Benning, Ga., the Citizen Soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 345th Combat Support Combat Service Support Training Regiment, 188th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East assess their task: negotiate from one side to the other using as little equipment as possible.
It seemed simple enough--until the timekeeper added the challenge of a time limit and a few rules of what could and could not be done.
"The focus (of the training) was twofold. I wanted us to work on basic leadership skills, and I wanted team leaders to work with their teams to get their warrior task training," said Lt. Col. Grant Carroll, 3-345's commander. During the unit's monthly battle assembly, Carroll added the non-traditional teambuilding course to the normal mandatory and warrior training.
With their motivation high, the Reservist Soldiers eagerly attacked the course, ready to make it happen.
"At the obstacle course, we had to bring a box across two boards. Once we figured it out, the real problem was balance," said Sgt. 1st Class Jeffery Williams, observer coach/trainer.
Having to negotiate a box across an open area using only two boards may seem like a simple task, but it required planning.
"We had to think on the fly, troubleshooting problems as they come," Williams said.
The 188th Infantry Brigade is a multi-component unit with a multi-component focus. The active duty brigade is comprised of both active and reserve battalions. While the active duty battalions provide day-to-day mission support, the reserve battalions--like the 3-345--provide OC/Ts or other support as needed to the RC units the Brigade trains.
Williams, who has been with the unit for five years, said he lost count of the number of mobilization support missions he has been on. As an OC/T, he and teammates advise, assist, and train Army Reserve and National Guard units mobilizing for deployment or assisting in the RC unit readiness posture.
"This training is to get the cognitive problem-solving processes moving again," explained Carroll.
The 3-345 have a mission supporting an eXportable Combat Training Exercise with the 116th Infantry Combat Team, a Virginia National Guard unit coming up in the summer of next year. The recent battle assembly, and others to follow, is preparation for that mission.
"Many of our Soldiers have been downrange, and know what right looks like, but we have not been through train-up recently, and this is a good environment to be in," he continued.
The battalion took a break from the reserve center where they normally train, and spent the weekend focusing on warrior tasks including military operations on urban terrain training and simulated convoy training.
The obstacle course built team cohesion and camaraderie, allowed the Soldiers to learn each others' strengths and weakness and, provide support to their fellow Reservists whenever asked. The obstacle course leader training also supported First Army Division East's Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey L. Bailey's priority on leader development.
Staff Sgt. Nilka Agosto and her teammates were instructed to capture an ammunition box from the other side of a simulated mindfield with only a pole and a rope to aid them. The team used versatility and talent to solve the problem. The lightest member of the team shimmied across the pole to retrieve the box, while the other members of the team served as a counterbalance. He sent the box back using the rope, and then shimmied back across into the safe zone. They completed the mission--well within the allotted time--and congratulated themselves on a job well done.
"The greatest asset in this unit is our versatility and talent pool. Everyone here is a subject matter expert, but no one is so arrogant to think they have nothing more to learn," stated Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Williams.
On the obstacle course the OC/Ts learned to work together even when they weren't on the same team.
"It opened up my eyes, being in a leadership position. I saw that even though [they] were not in the same platoon, individuals came together and planned things, and made it happen," observed Sgt. Berwin Benares, an OC/T who has been with the unit for two years.
Normally, the Reservists of 3-345 observe, coach and train other RC units, but the training weekend meant getting hands-on experience.
"We are seeing this firsthand. We see the communication and planning involved in putting the mission together, so it gives us a clearer view of how to approach the units we are training and evaluating," stated Agosto.
The battalion commander agreed.
"For our unit, a combat support training unit, getting out here and doing the nuts and bolts of what every Soldier needs to do is very important. It's great training for us. When we are called upon to train a unit we are ready to execute."
The units will continue preparation for their upcoming mission with more simulated training and warrior tasks in the Spring.