75th Division conducts Zanzibar exercise
Soldiers of the 5th Brigade, 75th Division, California Army Reserve, stand in formation with soldiers from Rwanda and Uganda during exercise Natural Fire 11 in Zanzibar, Tanzania.

CHUCKWANI BARRACKS, Zanzibar -- Twenty-five members of the 5th Brigade of the 75th Division from California recently participated in Natural Fire 11, a bilateral, multinational exercise held in Zanzibar, Tanzania. The 5th Brigade along with approximately 325 members of the armed forces of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and the United States trained side-by-side on the remote African island.

The aim of the exercise is to provide the participating countries with the skills to conduct peace support operations, humanitarian assistance, disaster response, counter terrorism and counter piracy. The contributions of the California delegation include planning, operating, executing and umpiring this command post exercise for the multi-national exercise Natural Fire 11.

The tasks for the 5Bde/75DIV began many months ago when they accepted the challenge to come to Zanzibar and set up the mission on this tiny island.

"It was originally unclear whether the 75th would be acting as the umpires, which is what they normally do, or another role," said Lt. Col. Dan Williams, adviser to the senior umpire, Brig. Gen. George Oewino of Kenya.

Typically, the 75th goes to exercise locations and sets up the exercise missions. "We give it structure; we create the storyline and injects that go into the mission, " said Williams.

With this exercise, the exercise planners were looking for someone to give some structure to the exercise. The five-country committee was putting together the scenario and creating injects, Williams said. "We came in to assist them-this was the first time [the five-country committee] was putting together this type of CPX. We're glad that we were able to assist them to give it good structure," Williams said.

The 75th attended the final planning conference in May, which is where the scripting was being finalized, what the Combined Joint Task Force would look like, and the support that would be provided for the exercise. "The biggest thing that we focused in on was the injects and making sure the story line was there," said Williams.

The unit was also asked to assist with the Formal After Action Review. During the Final Planning Conference, Williams did a presentation on how the 75th does a formal AAR. "While the countries may not use the same format, it at least gave them some guidance on how it should run and what to include in an after action." It is formalized by asking open-ended questions and trying to draw out what they did well and what things need improvement, said Williams. Participants need to know there are no "thin skins," and it needs to be open and honest and not meant to make anyone look bad. "They only way to improve," he said, "is to be honest about the level of performance that was there."

The way the participants involved in the scenarios are evaluated is the job of the umpires, Master Sgt. Daniel Lew, mentor to the country umpires said. Each country has provided four or more umpires to do the evaluating. "The umpire is similar to what we call the OCT, or Observer Control Trainer," he said.

The umpires are responsible for the tempo of the exercise. If they see that some staff are not being utilized well, or that the tempo is slow, it's their job to identify that and report to the exercise director to create additional items to pick up the tempo and stretch them out a little, Lew said. "If they feel they are being overly tasked," said Williams, "maybe there's a learning curve, and they need to pull back," said Williams.

The umpires are also responsible for "capturing," the data. "For each of the injects, there is a scenario and also what the expected action is based on the SOP's and doctrine," Williams said. This is what they are expected to do. The umpire has observation sheets that list what things should happen. "If the participants are not doing those things, it's the umpire's job to capture this, said Williams.

The umpires play a very important role, Williams said, "That's where all the 'lessons learned' come from."

The 75th is not only assisting the five countries participating in the exercise, they have helped set it up. "Because we do set up this type of exercise, with the computers and the shared drive, we provided the networking system," said Williams.

Maj. Disa Rifkin, G-6 mission officer, leads a two-person team consisting of Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Smith and 1st Sgt. Clark Morris, with assistance from Sgt. First Class Chris Ivey of the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Georgia Army National Guard. The team has designed an internal network for the exercise. "We have over 100 computers, 25 VOIP phones, or voice over internet protocol, we have an email server and a file server," Rifkin said.

This provides a realistic environment, "so that we can role play all these positions through email and they can have a realistic training environment," said Rifkin.

At the final planning conference in May, the digital architecture was designed. "It's taken since that time to build the servers, to image all the computers and we had to ship; so all of that had to be prepared a month in advance," Rifkin said.

Since the 75th Division arrived here, they have installed about 15,000 meters of cable with assistance from several Tanzanian Signal lieutenants, said Rifkin. "We had to wire all nine blocks and create the infrastructure for the network," she said. They then joined over 100 computers and created over 250 email accounts. "We are now in our busy stage, assisting people, getting their computer up and running, getting their email account created, and, hopefully, we can go into maintain mode," said Rifkin.

The 75th has planned, implemented and is now assisting in the operation of the Command Post Exercise. They are also getting valuable training. "This is exactly what we are set up to do and we now have a great opportunity to do what we train to do." Rifkin said.

Page last updated Wed September 21st, 2011 at 00:00