'Rakkasans' wrap up Joint Readiness Training Center rotation
August 28, 2014
FORT POLK, La. (Aug. 28, 2014) -- The din of simulated combat replaced the croaking of frogs and chirping of insects during the rotation of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), at the Joint Readiness Training Center here, July 8 through Aug. 10.
The Joint Readiness Training Center, known as JRTC, is home to herds of wild horses and alligator-filled waterways. Opposed not only by the environment, but also by the oppressive heat and humidity, and a professional opposing force, the training center offers a wealth of challenges for prospective training audiences.
"JRTC has the capability to support BCT (brigade combat team)-level training focused on conducting joint operations emphasizing contingency force missions," said Lt. Col. Mark Landis, the operations group chief of staff for JRTC.
JRTC is one of three maneuver Combat Training Centers, along with the National Training Center, at Fort Irwin, California, and the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany.
These training centers provide a large area for units to conduct maneuvers and to validate the training and readiness of active-component and reserve-component units, as well as multinational forces, as part of the Army Force Generation cycle, known as ARFORGEN.
The ARFORGEN model, approved by the secretary of the Army and chief of staff in 2006, revolves around three phases of readiness: reset, train/ready, and available. ARFORGEN serves to validate a unit's availability to respond to the needs of the combatant commanders.
"Training rotations directly tie into the command-and-control and advising tasks, prior to deploying," said Landis. "Because of that, the unit is well prepared to face possible problem sets in Afghanistan."
The Rakkasans' mission at JRTC of meeting those readiness expectations, seemed simple at first -- close with the enemy by means of fire and maneuver to destroy or capture him, or repel his assault by fire, close combat or counterattack.
It turned into a complex set of missions that included missions such air assaults involving multiple battalions seizing an objective for follow-on forces, then conducting an advisory mission focused on the unit's upcoming deployment to Afghanistan, with only a one-day turnaround.
"In my 23 years, this is the most complex combat training center rotation I have ever seen," said Col. J.B. Vowell, the commander of the 3rd BCT.
The Rakkasans began preparing for their JRTC rotation following the unit's return from Afghanistan, in May 2013, with the unit cycling through the first and second phases of the ARFORGEN cycle.
"We owe the Army a competent, capable, decisive-action entity," said Vowell. "What I'm responsible for, as a brigade commander, are the shoot, move, communicate, alert, marshal, deploy and fight-to-win concepts."
The Rakkasans conducted numerous training events, including platoon- and company-level air assault missions, and a large-scale multiple battalion air assault, to prepare for their JRTC rotation, as well as their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.
"We started preparing last year with a brigade FTX (field training exercise) and a brigade air assault and, at the same time, as a result of that, we planned on coming to the JRTC to test that yet again, in a much more fleshed out environment, and robust environment and do the mission rehearsal for our real deployment," Vowell said.
The unit faced the additional challenge of transitioning its forces to meet the Army's new model for brigade combat teams, with the addition of a third infantry battalion and artillery and engineers to existing battalions.
Despite some of the challenges they faced, the unit left JRTC with Soldiers and leaders better prepared to respond to the hybrid threats they may face during contingency operations. The training also helped prepare them for their upcoming advisory mission in Afghanistan.
"The unit had the opportunity to complete multiple turns on battle drill tasks to prepare for possible events they will face in Afghanistan," said Landis. "They are prepared to deploy to Afghanistan under their current mission set, trained on all BCT-level command-and-control aspects, as well as advising [Afghan National Security Forces] tasks."