Engineers prepare for advise and assist mission
December 19, 2013
CAMP SHELBY, Miss. -- U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from the 365th Engineer Battalion, based in Schuylkill, Pa., accompanied by Soldiers from Texas and West Virginia, successfully completed their cumulative training event readying for deployment.
The CTE designed by First Army Division East, 177th Armored Brigade and training executed by Observer-Coach/Trainers of the158th Infantry Brigade and 157th Infantry Brigade, Camp Atterbury, Ind. The event cultivated the Soldiers engineering and tactical skills to prepare for mission success in retrograde assistance all over Afghanistan.
"Completion of a pre-deployment site survey visit conducted in August, specific mission emphasis is on training development of Afghan National Army engineers to take over operations," said Capt. Robert R Burress, Alpha Battery, CTE Planner Officer in Charge, 2nd Battalion, 410th Field Artillery Regiment.
The ongoing Afghanistan retrograde mission is moving at a fast pace. The 365th EN Bn will be part of an advise and train mission that will strive to equip ANA engineers with construction, maintenance skills, and the ability to preserve infrastructure left behind by U.S. and Coalition Forces with the scheduled end of Operation Enduring Freedom, said Buress.
"Originally, the CTE planning was based only on retrograde mission training objectives implementing tactical movement, route clearance drills, convoy movement, site security and the completion of large team construction projects around the cantonment," said Burress.
The Soldiers accomplished these mission training objectives and added events that focused on communicating with local community members, participating in multiple key leader engagements, and training the Afghan Soldier role players their construction and maintenance skill sets, said Burress.
"The event's demands and high operation tempo were very intense," said Burress. "They obtained a realistic grasp of their upcoming daily tasks down-range."
Capt. David A. McCollum, Training Operations Officer, 3rd Bn, 315th Engineer Battalion, First Army Division East, accompanied the 365th EN Bn leadership on the PDSS visit, and developed training guidance that will facilitate the battalion's future battle rhythm in theater.
Learning of the additional responsibilities involved in the mission, McCollum said he employed the use of foreign language speakers, arranged numerous key leader engagements, provided technical expertise to the vertical and horizontal engineers, and assigned O-C/T to mentor specific drills during the CTE.
"The 365th started the exercise engaging with Dari, or Pashtu Arabic foreign language speakers," said McCollum. "As the exercise progressed, the ANA Soldier role players augmented the group to be trained."
"I believe the Soldiers excelled to proficiency with the ANA development training," said McCollum. "They showed initiative and progressed at a good rate based on the O-C/T mentoring and guidance."
Lt. Col. Samuel Spurlock, battalion commander, 365th EN Bn, commended the efforts of the First Army Division East Staff.
"The event planners and the O-C/Ts from First Army Division East did incredible work preparing us for our mission," said the native of Cordova, Tenn.
Spurlock mentioned that an integral part of the training plan was created during the PDSS visit. The visit allowed connection with the unit already in theater, visibility of the area, and scope of ongoing operations.
"We are fortunate the 177th Armored Brigade and 158th Infantry Brigade saw the vital importance and encouraged the PDSS," he said. "Prior to mobilization we assumed the journey wasn't possible."
Spurlock and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael G. Oddo, of Owego, N.Y., senior enlisted advisor of the 365th EN Bn, were both pleased the PDSS came to fruition for the benefit of their Soldiers.
"We were able to communicate with the current unit on ground about what they were experiencing," said Oddo. "This allowed us to bank that information and upon return O-C/Ts added the details to our training plan."
Furthermore, the 365th EN Bn command team appreciated that subject matter experts from 122nd Engineer Battalion and 8th Engineer Battalion, the 365th EN Bn are scheduled to relieve in place traveled back to Camp Shelby and advised the Soldiers for the duration of the CTE.
"Offering our Soldiers training true to what they will experience in theater with as much attention to detail is invaluable," said Spurlock.
"The CTE helped refine our mission plan and our unit cohesion," said Spurlock. "The exercise allowed us to identify strengths and improve any flaws in our plan permitting realignment of our teams, if necessary, for the success of the mission."
Recently taking command of the 365th EN Bn January 2013, Spurlock's leadership imparts finely tuned experience now embarking on his fourth tour. His most recent mission being to Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012 acting as Chief Basing Operations Engineer Officer, Strategic Operations International Security Assistance Forces at Joint Command North Kabul International Airfield. Spurlock's two prior deployments were to Iraq, he said.
First Army ensures mobilization training is relevant, realistic and reflects the most current conditions Soldiers face in theater. First Army Division East directly supports the Chief of Staff of the Army's priority providing trained, equipped and ready forces to win the current fight, while maintaining responsiveness for unforeseen contingencies.