A Commander's vision - 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade trains for the fight
October 3, 2011
YAKIMA TRAINING CENTER, Wa.---Given the Army's high operational pace, combat security, the collection of intelligence and long range surveillance (LRS) communications must be integrated to provide commanders on the battlefield with real time information regarding current situations and educated assessments of what lies ahead.
The Army's Battlefield Surveillance Brigade (BfSB) mirrors this cutting edge concept in battlefield operations. The 201st BfSB, I Corps, JBLM, is one of three active Army units of its kind. The 201st trains diligently; making this concept their reality.
Military intelligence, cavalry scout, LRS and support soldiers assigned to the 201st BfSB were afforded the opportunity to sharpen their skills, grow as a team, and perform as an integrated group during field training exercise Sept. 12-30 at Yakima Training Center.
Throughout the vast Yakima training grounds, more than 700 soldiers are strategically positioned to train for an anticipated deployment. They conduct and support combat patrol and convoy live fire exercises along with situational training exercises (STX) lanes.
The brigade's separate companies and battalions effectively and simultaneously provide communications for mission command, keep the Soldiers fed, and maintain equipment and supplies.
During the exercise, other units within the brigade concurrently conduct weapons qualification ranges, drivers training and Situational Training Exercise (STX) lanes.
This unique training exercises all elements of the brigade's capabilities and will ensure the 201st BfSB Soldiers are a force to be reckoned with prior to engaging in battlefield operations.
The commander envisions an integrated war fighting force working in unison to accomplish the brigade's mission by bringing to life a series of pre deployment rehearsals. These soldiers train continuously; making his vision a certainty.
"We are out here building teams, "said Col. Paul Norwood, 201st BfSB commander. " The way I know how to build confidence and competence in our leaders and with each other is through repetition. This is a stone-cold must do."
Cavalry scout and military intelligence Soldiers work together to develop their skills during a situational training exercise located in a valley that is a simulated urban environment here. The scouts provide security as a platoon of intelligence soldiers gather information by interacting with role players who pose as local nationals in this fictitious third world village.
Spc. Angela Evans, an intelligence specialist assigned to Charlie Company, 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion, 201st BfSB, I Corps, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, enjoys the training and expresses that it enhances her team's ability to identify internal issues.
"We were able to see the weaknesses within the team." said Evans, a native of Baton Rouge, La. "After each exercise we received guidance from our leaders and fixed the problems within our team."
Excellence, discipline and teamwork are highly regarded attributes within this brigade. It is not surprising that soldiers within this brigade emulate these characteristics in the training environment. Dedicated leaders produce dedicated soldiers.
Mark Thornton, Command Sgt. Maj., 201st BfSB, recalls some advice he was given by one of his leaders during a deployment.
"Command Sgt Maj. Marvin Hill, while serving with retired Army General David Petraus, told me something back in 2008 and it has stuck with me ever since," said Thornton. "There are three things soldiers need to know about us as leaders; that we are approachable, accessible and available. If you can do that then soldiers never have issues bringing problems to you and they always feel supported."
During a convoy situational lanes training on a road located miles into the rolling hills of Yakima, scouts provide security as intelligence soldiers use mounted and dismounted troop leading procedures to successfully rescue an injured pilot. After locating the pilot they provide first responder aid and call for a medical evacuation. The Soldiers move right along recovering mission essential sensitive items from the downed helicopter.
Spc. Christopher Frische, a cavalry scout assigned to Bravo Troop,3rd Regiment, 38th Cavalry Squadron, 201st BfSB, learned a lot by training with the intelligence Soldiers.
"This training allows me to get a grasp on their demeanor," said Frische, a native of Greenwood, Ind. "Our job is to protect them and make their job easier. The better the read, the more I am able to protect them."
The exercise scenario requires the relocation of the brigade's Tactical Operations Center (TOC). In military terms, this is referred to as "Jumping the TOC." The TOC is home to all vital communications systems within the brigade's command hierarchy. Without these systems in place, the command cannot communicate situational awareness throughout its ranks. It takes technically and tactically proficient Soldiers to pull off a movement of this magnitude.
"The TOC jump is going well." said Sgt. Alexandria G. King, a native of Norristown, Pa. and communications specialist assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 201st BfSB. "We planned for the set up of this movement prior to this exercise. My leaders are awesome and I trust their opinions in all things commo."
Miles from the brigade's TOC, a convoy live fire training exercise conducted throughout this field training exercise. During the first phase intelligence soldiers, scouts and support soldiers conduct mounted convoy operations with crew serve weapons. This portion of the convoy live fire training allows the soldiers to familiarize themselves with the convoy's route, the mission at hand, the weapons and assigned sectors of fire. This initial phase is conducted without ammunition.
Once soldiers proficiently execute the first phase of the convoy live fire, gunners fire blank rounds from the crew served weapons during the convoy. The second phase ultimately gives the brigade's leadership working knowledge of each team's skill level. During this time the leadership evaluates the team's proficiency level during convoy operations.
Platoon leaders and team leaders decide if each team operates at the level needed to use live rounds during the convoy exercise. If proficient, the team moves onto live rounds. Dozens of teams within the brigade successfully navigate this exercise.
The soldiers of the 201st BfSB seem confident in the knowledge that they are informed of the mission, given the brigade's expectations and are afforded the opportunity to execute the individual skill sets required in theatre.
"We are preparing for Afghanistan," said Kyle H. Rafter, a gunner assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion, 201st BfSB. "The more we do this as a team, the more comfortable we are covering each other's sectors of fire during the deployment."