Training period begins for Arrowhead Brigade
May 22, 2008
By Rachel Young
FORT LEWIS, Wash - The Arrowhead Brigade is reset - and ready to roll.
The reset period has drawn to a close for 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division and the training period has begun in earnest.
For the last several months, 3rd Bde., 2nd Inf. Div. has been "rebuilding the foundation," according to Col. David Funk, brigade commander. What the Army calls the reset period, Funk prefers to call a "regeneration" because it better describes the complex period.
With that in mind, he chose the theme of rebuilding the foundation because he likens the reset period to building a house.
"If you want to go out and build a house, you can go ahead and throw your walls up, and put the roof on, and put pretty shutters on it, and paint it up really nice, but the first stiff wind that comes by, that thing is going to collapse on you," Funk said. "You always start out with the foundation."
For 3rd Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Alan Bjerke, the personnel change over was one of the biggest challenges, he said.
"When you do a reset, really, you're going to lose a lot of your senior leadership - they change out," Bjerke said.
And the Arrowhead Brigade experienced that, with a turnover of about 50 percent of the senior NCOs from sergeant first class to sergeant major, Funk said.
"About 50 percent of the resident expertise of this brigade left, and we had new blood come in," he said.
Five out of six battalion commanders and most of the command sergeants major also changed over during the regeneration. While it took some time to for the brigade's Soldiers to get used to the new blood, Bjerke and Funk are both confident in the talent and quality of the new leadership.
It took about 90 days to get "everyone pointing north," Bjerke said. "But we're there now."
The turnover was not limited to senior NCOs, either. Since January, about 870 Soldiers left the brigade and about 654 replaced them.
This brought Funk to one of his points of emphasis for the regeneration: new Soldier integration. It is hard enough for a Soldier fresh out of AIT to show up to a new unit, but it could be even harder for one reporting to 3-2, a unit full of battle-hardened veterans who have formed tight bonds over the years, Funk said. He did not want any of those Soldiers to feel like interlopers.
"We made it an area of emphasis to really welcome in and integrate all of our new Soldiers," he said.
This was accomplished through carefully designed welcome briefs, sponsorships and recognizing that these new Soldiers joined the Army to be a part of something special, something larger then themselves.
"One of the basic human needs is this feeling of belonging to something," Funk said. "So shame on us if we don't help them feel special and feel part of something special by welcoming them into the Arrowhead brotherhood."
Because of the number of new Soldiers and a need to rebuild team cohesion, the training phase will begin with the basics, Funk said. From weapons proficiency to physical fitness, the basic "blocking and tackling" will be the daily priority.
"Those are the things we are focusing on right now to turn what was, six months or a year ago, a civilian man or woman into an Arrowhead Stryker Soldier," Funk said.
Bjerke plans to build from individual skills all the way up to brigade level exercises in the training phase. During the reset, training was done only below platoon level. Most of the units are now at platoon level training, he said.
"I think it's gone fast and furious," Bjerke said. "There has been some great training."
Expert Infantryman Badge training is also in the brigade's future, but it will have a twist, according to Bjerke.
"EIB historically has only been for infantrymen," he said. "Well, we're going to do it a little bit different this year. Every Soldier in the brigade will go through it regardless of MOS."
Because of the nature of the current battlefield, every Soldier could be called upon to perform infantry tasks. "Regardless of your job ... you are going to have to fight the enemy," he said. "Everyone has to know what they are doing."
The training period allows Bjerke and Funk both to watch Soldiers learn and progress, and both senior leaders find that exciting.
"It is just an amazing thing every single day to watch these Arrowhead Soldiers in action," Funk said.
Even the new Soldiers know when they enter a 3rd Brigade formation that they are entering something special, he said.
And Bjerke agreed.
"We are very tight down here - we're proud to be the Arrowhead Brigade," Bjerke said.
Rachel Young is a reporter on the Fort Lewis Northwest Guardian