Army Total Force Policy at work during CSTX
July 2, 2014
FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. -- It's the Army triad at work: the Reserve's only infantry unit secures a village with aerial support from a National Guard aviation regiment, while active duty medics treat the wounded.
Scenarios like this one, with the three Army components training together seamlessly, are becoming more common under Army Total Force Policy, which was put into practice during Combat Support Training Exercise 91-14-03, held here June 7-27.
The three-week exercise, which includes three days of troop-leading procedures and six days of section, platoon, and company situational training, concludes with a nine-day culminating training event, was planned and overseen by the 91st Training Division.
About 100 First Army Soldiers served as observer-controller/trainers for the approximately 3,000 personnel being trained. O-C/Ts carefully analyze the training, then provide their insight about which practices should be maintained and which could be improved.
"We do a lot of hot washes. We have one after every iteration," said Staff Sgt. Ryan Moses, an O-C/T with First Army Division West's 189th Infantry Brigade out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. "Then we will have a platoon after action review following the whole scenario."
On this day, Soldiers of the 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment from American Samoa are working to clear a village, then secure the area. Moses and his fellow O-C/Ts observe their movement and techniques, and then critique them.
"They're doing well," Moses said during a rare lull in the action. "This is the only infantry unit in the Reserve, and they display good physical fitness. They're on point, just a little bit of adjustment here and there is needed."
The training has included establishing a patrol base, platoon and company attacks, reacting to indirect fire, and Nuclear Biological and Chemical training. A First Army Soldier is with them throughout. "There is an O-C/T attached to each platoon to make sure what they're doing is according to doctrine," Moses said.
Although the training Moses was observing was at the platoon level, the CSTX also focused on individual Warrior tasks, and continued all the way up to the division level. Also key was the continued implementation of Army Total Force Policy, where active duty, Reserve and National Guard Soldiers are trained and held to the same standards, helping ensure uniformity and seamless mission accomplishment whether the element called on is a two-person team or a brigade. The overall intent behind Army Total Force Policy is to build and sustain readiness across the Reserve Component.
"We consider our exercise to be multi-component and multi-echelon," said Maj. Alex Kerkow, deputy chief of operations for the 91st Training Division, and one of the exercise planners. "The Army Reserve is our target audience. However, with the integration of active units such as the 10th Combat Support Hospital, we're really expanding beyond the Army Reserve. We have a National Guard unit - the 1st Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment - doing an aerial gunnery, and the 1st-118th Combined Arms Battalion is conducting reconnaissance and route clearance."
The exercise scenario has Soldiers deploying from the United States to help quell regional instability in an area similar to the Caucasus.
"This is an opportunity to expand beyond the usual annual training," Kerkow said. "Instead of the normal two weeks, we do three weeks of training, in which we simulate the mobilization and deployment from the U.S. to an area experiencing regional instability. Soldiers here will go through a defense phase, then a decisive phase, and finally will conduct stability operations. "
Adding the 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment to the mix is a big plus, according to Kerkow.
"One of the differences from the past is that we have a combat arms unit directly involved. That provides a more realistic training scenario," he said. "That gives the 100th a chance to train as an entire battalion, which is very rare."
Having the infantry regiment in the exercise also gives the other Soldiers -- most of whom are in combat service or combat service support fields such as military police, engineers, chemical, logistics, transportation, medical, and civil affairs -- the opportunity to support and work directly with a combat force, Kerkow added.
In the exercise scenario, four villages are occupied by insurgents, and the units employ a mix of kinetic and non-kinetic means to establish stability.
"On an average mission, an MP unit rolls into the village to cordon and search the area," Kerkow said. "They will take engineers and chemical Soldiers with them, and also civil affairs, who will conduct key leader engagements. The engineers will do a route and building assessment to see if the U.S. can assist that village. The civil affairs will see if the U.S. can help increase governance, infrastructure, education, or law enforcement. Chemical will do reconnaissance to confirm or deny the presence of chemical agents. When any activity occurs, there is the possibility of contact with the enemy and injury, so if that happens, the unit will transport the person for treatment."
The training is tough, realistic and beneficial, according to those going through it.
"The steep hills are the toughest part. We climb those every day," said Sgt. Alvert Alvarado of the 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment. We don't get much sleep, maybe three hours a day, but it's good training. Today we had a react-to-contact and convoy operations. This is the second time we've raided this village. We're being drilled in the skill sets we need to have."
The First Army Soldiers have "been good to work with," Alvarado added. "They give us a lot of feedback that we can implement and build on our successes and learn from our mistakes."
Soldiers in the exercise have been eager to work and learn, according to Capt. Collin Park, an observer-controller/trainer with First Army Division West's 189th Infantry Brigade.
"Today was combined arms breach, and they've done a lot of movement-to-contact and some air assault missions," Park said. "We observe the event that is going on, then provide feedback, advise them, and answer questions. They're very receptive. It's gone well. They've definitely made progress since day one, so I consider that successful."
When the exercise is finished, a final after action review will highlight lessons learned.
"We will do a company-size AAR and go over the entire span of time they were here to talk about the good and the bad," Park said. "We want to communicate to them what needs to be improved and what they should sustain."
First Army, as Forces Command's designated coordinating authority for implementation of the Army Total Force Policy, partners with United States Army Reserve and Army National Guard leadership to advise, assist, and train Reserve Component formations to achieve Department of the Army directed readiness requirements during both pre- and post-mobilization through multi-component integrated collective training, enabling FORSCOM to provide combatant commanders trained and ready forces in support of worldwide requirements.