As the U.S. Army's Fires Center of Excellence, Fort Sill is the go-to location for artillery wisdom and know-how. However, the post also exports this experience in the form of mobility training teams to points spanning the globe.
Six organizations on post send out teams teaching Soldiers at their home stations instead of requiring these much larger student groups to burn travel and lodging money coming to Fort Sill. These units are the 6th Air <t$>Defense Artillery Brigade, the Noncommissioned Officer Academy, the 48th Field Artillery Brigade, the Capability Development and Integration Directorate, the Joint and Combined Integration Directorate and the Directorate of Training and Doctrine.

Sgt. 1st Class Ray Stimson of the 428th FA and two other instructors divide their time teaching Army National Guard Soldiers in garrison and hitting the road to teach active-duty Soldiers. Stimson, a senior instructor for the field artillery weapons maintenance course said his team has five MTTs for fiscal 2010. Most recently he and two instructors traveled to Fort Bragg, N.C., for a month-long trip teaching on the M777 howitzer. The team also instructed Soldiers at Fort Polk, La., and will soon leave for Fort Campbell, Ky. Although there's a certain measure of flexibility on class size depending on unit needs, Stimson said they try to stick to six or seven students per instructor.

"I like the MTTs, because here at Fort Sill I don't have my own weapons system I can train on. Here we borrow howitzers for training, but when we go on MTTs units give us Solders they want trained and howitzers for each instructor I have on the trip," he said.

Stimson said along with the cost benefit of sending fewer Soldiers on temporary duty assignments, MTTs bring Sill expertise together with Soldiers who work on and know every little nuance of their weapons systems through daily interaction. Should a problem arise, a fix action offers more than just a ready piece of military hardware. "If parts are available, we use the students to fix their own equipment, and that makes the training more effective. Here when training guardsmen, we have to create the problem to make the training more realistic."

Oddly enough, the instructors are mechanics on other vehicles and weapons systems, because the Army does not have a dedicated military occupational specialty for light artillery maintenance, said Stimson. The two- to three-week MTTs train Soldiers beyond the Level 10 operator maintenance they initially receive to a Level 20 standard which the instructors themselves maintain. Stimson said the Soldier in effect become mechanics for their units.

The instructor team passes on basic maintenance skills, such as how to properly fill out an Army Form 5988-E, Equipment Inspection Maintenance Worksheet, to identify faults found during inspections. They also acquaint Soldiers with frequently seen problems such as condensation problems in the weapons sights. "We teach them how to purge that condensation instead of seeking a mechanic to do it for them," said Stimson. In a deployed location unit mechanics aren't always available when needed.

The Fort Sill Noncommissioned Officers Academy's MTT schedule is a bit more robust than the 428th FA, but then most of the more than 60 instructors at the academy can teach in-garrison or TDY to other locations. This year, NCOA instructors teaching the field artillery section chief and fires support sergeant courses will be on the road for 16 advanced leadership training classes at locales such as Germany, Alaska and posts throughout the continental United States. The NCOA employs a three- to four-man team with a senior instructor and two or three subordinate instructors.

"We do this training as part of the Armed Forces Generation Reset Program teaching 20-40 Soldiers who redeploy from theater back to their home stations," said Eddie Bates, NCOA operations officer. Bates said the MTTs develop a better NCOA instructor making them more adaptable to different training environments. Instructors must also carry all their equipment, curriculum, and teaching materials, while maintaining accountability for their equipment while TDY.

The workload doesn't diminish for Fiscal 2011 as instructors will be out for 20 MTT including two ADA courses.

Staff Sgt. Daniel Medrano, an NCOA instructor, has been out on four MTTs and enjoys the experience. Of those four, Medrano has uttered "bitte" on more than one occasion having gone TDY to Germany twice. "I like to be part of getting these guys who just got back from deployed locations, the training they need while they can stay home near their families who they've already been apart from for a long time," he said.

Medrano, too, finds opportunities to refine himself as an NCO. He mentioned conducting an ALC course at a post that fired the M777 howitzer, a piece of equipment not readily available here yet.

At the DOTD field artillery lessons learned and reset branch, Jeff Moyer oversees 43 instructors who completed 57 MTTs to 23 field artillery units training more than 8,000 Soldiers in 2009. The instructors, all retired Soldiers from colonels down to staff sergeants train field artillery core competencies on either the battery and below team or the collective evaluation training team. The former trains Soldiers individually up to the section level; the later trains from section up to the battalion level.

"The intent is to restore core competencies after doing in-lieu-of missions in support of the Global War on Terror," said Moyer, branch chief. To reinforce those core competencies, Moyer's teams focus on artillery skills proficiency training for all MOSs, to live fire certification training on to platoon, battery and battalion level operations.

Depending on unit requirements, Moyer may send from two to 22 instructors to train from 25 to 140 Soldiers in one unit. "We can train just about every function within field artillery," he said.

Moyer added the MTT program is mushrooming in rapid succession. He started back in 2006 and completed 20 missions in his first full year, 2007. In 2008 this number spiked to 54 missions, and in 2010 Moyer expects to far exceed last year's high water mark as easily one-third of the instructor corps is on the road at any given time. While that number might not sound significant, Moyer said all but four instructors are out as of press time training Soldiers stateside and overseas.

Units seeking to secure training should call Moyer directly and he will walk them through the process.

He said he prefers a six-month advance notice to best prepare, and that units that are still in-theater should start programming out their course and training needs for when they return to their home stations.

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