'No Thin Skin' - Trainers Help Hawaii-based Soldiers Improve During Exercise
Maj. Doug Watkins, Operations Group Sierra Fox operational law observer trainer, with talks with Cpt. Elliott Johnson, 8th Theater Sustainment Command staff judge advocate, during the two-week command post exercise at Camp Zama, Japan. The observer trainers were on hand at all hours to give advice and best practices to the 8th TSC Soldiers.

CAMP ZAMA, Japan -- The small group of Soldiers walked around the controlled chaos of the forward command post, observing and writing notes. The Soldiers wore their patrol caps indoors, to be more easily identified. Their purpose - to help a developing theater sustainment command staff raise their game and better serve their commanding general.

The observer trainers are part of Operations Group Sierra Fox, a specialized unit of combined arms experts from the Battle Command Training Program out of the Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The group was formed as part of Army Transformation to oversee and train theater sustainment commands, expeditionary sustainment commands, and other support and functional brigades.

Ops Group S/F\'s mission at Camp Zama is to observe the inner workings of the 8th Theater Sustainment Command (TSC) forward command post, document those observations, and to give advice to the commanding general that is tied back to doctrine.

"We are simply here to train a unit," said Col. Mike Barbee, a native of Summerville, Ga., and the founding member and commander of Ops Group S/F. "In the past, BCTP would focus on divisions and corps level exercises. The division support command and the aviation brigade would be an afterthought. We have never trained a TSC in the year and a half we've been doing this, but we've trained four expeditionary sustainment commands. This is a great effort to see how a forward command post would work in a TSC."

Barbee and 13 observer trainers are on hand in Japan to scrutinize the FCP, and 12 observer trainers are at the MCP, located at Fort Shafter, Hawaii. Both command posts held mid-point after action reviews to list the outstanding issues that need improvement, and to come up with a contract with the 8th TSC on how to fix those issues.

"One of our mottos is 'no thin skin'," said Fort Leavenworth, Kan. native Lt. Col. Kevin Casey, Chief Observer Trainer. ""We observe how the 8th TSC staff operates, take notes and through these observations help the unit develop a way ahead. If there is an issue that comes up, our whole goal is to make the unit better."

Col. Bern Ruiz, 8th TSC G-3, approached Barbee at the 45th Sustainment Brigade mission rehearsal exercise at Schofield Barracks in November to ask for help. Ruiz asked if Barbee and his team could observe and train the 8th TSC during a command post exercise in the spring. Barbee said he wasn't sure if he could assist and didn't commit Ops Group S/F at the time, but then realized how important this exercise was to the 8th TSC commanding general, MG Raymond V. Mason, as well as to the Army in general, because it is helping to develop emerging doctrine for the TSCs.

"This exercise is plotting new ground that will set the stage for new theater sustainment command doctrine," Barbee said. "We are excited to be here, helping the 8th TSC work their way to full operational capability."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16