Shoulder-to-shoulder First Army trains Ohio Guard engineers for major exercise
April 24, 2014
COLUMBUS, Ohio (April 24, 2014) -- First Army recently helped prepare the Ohio Army National Guard's 16th Engineer Brigade to participate in a Warfighter exercise with the Army's 82nd Airborne Division as the engineer support element.
More than 40 trainers and support personnel from First Army and three other support organizations joined forces to assist and train the engineer brigade headquarters staff during a command post exercise at the unit's home station on the Defense Supply Center Columbus installation.
The exercise was designed, developed and executed by First Army headquarters training and computer simulations staff planners.
"As a preparatory event, the exercise was a success and provided a training opportunity for the unit to conduct mission command collective training," said Clyde L. Williams, chief of First Army Training Division's Exercise Branch. "The exercise also helped the 16th Engineer commander conduct an internal assessment of his staff prior to participation in the division Warfighter."
First Army training planners developed 23 storylines for the exercise, which included more than 100 events injected into the simulation scenario. During the exercise, the 16th Engineer staff of more than 90 Soldiers was able to rehearse receiving, analyzing, processing and responding to actions in a simulated combat environment.
"The opportunity to do a full-up command post exercise prior to the Warfighter is huge, as many Soldiers on our staff have never done planning for offensive and defensive combat operations," said Col. Paul A. Craft, commander of the 16th Engineer Brigade and a school superintendent in Delaware, Ohio.
"We have all been so focused on training and fighting the current Afghanistan and Iraq counter-insurgency and stability operations model. Going back into a combat operations focused scenario is a very interesting challenge."
The command post exercise was not so much about winning the war fight, Craft noted, but developing and honing how the staff works together.
"The 'center of gravity' is mission command and staff processes, such as how we take in information, disseminate it across the staff, share the process and then turn it into action plans that we can then communicate down, up and within the organization," Craft said.
Leaders in the 16th Engineer Brigade say it is significant for a reserve component unit to participate in a Warfighter exercise with the 82nd Airborne Division, an active component unit.
"I think this is one of the greatest opportunities we could ask for as an Army National Guard unit," said Sgt. Maj. David R. Thomas, operations sergeant major for the 16th Engineer Brigade. "The 82nd Airborne Division is a phenomenal organization and working with them during this exercise is going to be a great experience."
The two units will learn from each other, Thomas added. "I think at the end of this exercise, it will be a win-win for the 82nd and the National Guard, because it is an opportunity to rehearse war-fighter skills together as part of the Army Total Force."
Taking First Army's contribution -- a package of trainers, simulations experts and computer hardware/software technicians -- to the 16th Engineer Brigade's home station, instead of having the unit travel to another training location, was an important validation of First Army's emerging shift in training support focus and use of new simulations technology that replicates battlefield conditions.
In the years since 9/11, First Army primarily trained Army National Guard and Army Reserve units for deployments to overseas contingency operations. Now, First Army is providing more training support to non-deploying reserve component units at their home locations during their regularly scheduled monthly battle assembly weekends and annual training weeks.
Leaders at the 16th Engineer's exercise say it maximizes the use of resources and provides the best training for the brigade.
"The greatest significance of home station training is found in the area of shrinking resources and increased requirements," said Col. Tom Blackstock, exercise director for the 16th Engineer's CPX and chief of the Joint Staff for the Georgia National Guard and the Georgia Department of Defense from Marietta, Ga.
Blackstock said the CPX was an opportunity to maximize the training benefit for the 16th Engineer Brigade while conserving resources such as manpower, facilities, training funds and equipment. "The quality training the 16th Engineers receive at home station during this CPX will enable them to participate fully in the 82nd Airborne Division Warfighter.
First Army works with the Army National Guard and Army Reserve to provide versatile annual and pre-mobilization training and exercise support packages for units ranging in size from platoons through brigades.
"The most important thing is to add value to the training experience of the unit," said Lt. Col. Kenneth J. Frey, senior observer coach/trainer for the 16th Engineer's command post exercise and commander of the 1st Battalion, 345th Engineers (Training Support), 157th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East, located at Camp Atterbury, Ind. "There are a lot of Guard and Reserve units who will benefit from First Army coming to their home stations and helping them achieve their unit objectives."
Frey led a team of 13 observer controller/trainers throughout the two-and-a-half-day exercise conducted during the 16th Engineer's monthly battle assembly weekend.
"We have a good relationship with the reserve component Soldiers," said Frey. "During the exercise, we are observers, coaches, assistors and trainers; we will not evaluate a single thing here. We are training aids and are here to simply help the unit and its Soldiers improve and be successful."