First Army trains Ohio National Guard for Afghanistan mission
November 1, 2011
CAMP SHELBY, Miss., Nov. 1, 2011 -- Trainer/mentors from the 1/306th Battalion went to Mississippi to run a four-day field training exercise for the 1/134th Field Artillery Battalion, a National Guard unit headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Oct. 20-23.
The exercise was the last training the unit received in preparation for an upcoming deployment.
"We are the last piece of the big Army that these Soldiers will see before they go into theater, and we're the last weigh station that can help them prior to deployment," said Lt. Col. Timothy Gauthier, the commander of the 1/306th, 188th Infantry Brigade. "Here the cost of a mistake is simply redoing a patrol or mission, but the next time they do it, people will be shooting back at them. That's a heavy responsibility, but that's what motivates my trainer/mentors."
While in Afghanistan, the 1/134th will be responsible for providing security force missions for high level officials and others moving from location to location. The battalion, which has been augmented with two infantry companies to form Task Force ROC, will be spread out to different regional support commands throughout the country. Their mission set will focus heavily on maneuver operations.
"They will not own any land. They will work directly for the headquarters that do own the land in the respective areas that they are in," Gauthier said.
Every unit that rotates through Camp Shelby has a unique set of mission requirements, and the 188th Infantry Brigade, as well as the rest of the First Army Division East Team, strives to tailor its training to each unit's needs. However, Gauthier said that most of what the Soldiers are trained on are common skills and tasks that are the same no matter where one goes on an operational deployment.
"With any mission, there are things that get tested -- troop leading procedures, pre-combat checks, pre-combat inspections, rehearsals, how the chain of command conducts command and control, how they task organize, how they prepare. Those skills go across the board no matter what the specific mission is," he said.
Before the 188th Trainer/Mentors worked with the 1/134th Soldiers, they received weeks of extensive training on individual and collective tasks from the 158th Infantry Brigade.
"It takes four brigades to train one BCT (brigade combat team)," said Col. Kevin Colyer, commander of the 188th.
Colyer explained that each brigade in First Army Division East has a different piece of the puzzle, and their success relies upon their ability to function as a team. He said that The 177th Armored Brigade, stationed at Camp Shelby, functions as the validation authority. They manage all of the backside support and communications, as well as conducting most of the interfacing with the units being trained.
They are supported by the 4th Brigade, 75th Division, a brigade composed of mainly senior officers who train units' battalion or brigade's leadership in executing battle command tasks. The 158th, also at Shelby, does lane training and prepares Soldiers for operating at the company level. Then the 188th helps them put it all together in a final culminating or field training exercise at the battalion level.
"It takes a lot of working together," Colyer said. "We have to flex and help each other out."
If feedback from the 1/134th commander is an indication, the result of the brigades' collective efforts is a superior training experience.
"This is the best mobilization we have had out of three we have done," said Lt. Col. Craig W. Baker, commander of the 1/134th. "The First Army noncommissioned officers and officers who have worked with us have been great. The tracking mechanisms are in place, and there has been a lot of conversation that this is our training. We can take ownership of it and were involved with its development. From day one, it has been clear that First Army is here to help us."
The 1/134th is set to deploy to Afghanistan in early November, and then it will be on to train another unit to deploy for the Soldiers of the 188th and First Army.
"It's going to be a period of high operational tempo over the next year," Gauthier said. "It's challenging for the trainer/mentors. It's challenging for Camp Shelby and the operations group, but the biggest place we're going to make our money as a division is the having the brigades working together with the assets we have to help (Reserve-Component) units become proficient to the battalion level."