CAMP ATTERBURY-MUSCATATUCK, Ind. (Aug. 21, 2013) -- During the recent Vibrant Response exercise here, while most participants were concerned about the task at hand, 157th Infantry Brigade trainer/mentors team was more focused on assisting participants with improving decision making processes.

"We saw their decision-making process and their tactics, techniques and procedures to roll out and complete their mission," said Sgt. First Class Dusty Beam, a trainer/mentor with the 157th Infantry Brigade. "Our job is to help them get better as they evaluate themselves. The unit needs to work out what works best for themselves."

More than 80 Soldiers of the 157th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East, acted as trainer/mentors during the recent annual two-week Vibrant Response 13-2 exercise, held in August. More than 5,000 Soldiers from the National Guard, U. S. Army Reserves and active duty components converged across several central and southern Indiana locations, to respond to a catastrophic domestic incident.

"Our job is to help units shape the discussion after each mission for self-discovered solutions," explained Col. Brandt Deck, Commander of the 157th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East. "We have to do everything we can to prepare these Soldiers for this special mission. I am very proud of our trainer/mentor role here at Vibrant Response."

The Vibrant Response participants also appreciated the 157th's expertise.

"Vibrant Response is our unit's opportunity to institutionalize lessons learned here," said Brig. Gen. A.C. Roper, Task Force Ops commander. "We are thankful for the trainer/mentors of the 157th Infantry Brigade, and need to take advantage of the skills and nuances they bring to the table."

Throughout the exercise, Division East trainer/mentors helped various military units and civilian organizations review their actions during the large-scale catastrophic emergency. This year's scenario involved two 5-kilo ton nuclear detonations in major mid-west cities.

"Vibrant Response is a tremendously important exercise testing our nation's ability to respond to a major incident," Deck explained. "We must incorporate all major civilian partner training objectives as well as replicate theater operations, in a three-tiered process, in the largest scale and most realistic environment as possible. The first tier is our local civilian emergency responders followed by the state National Guard units, and finally our federal Soldiers represented by the U.S. Army Reserve and active duty units."

Regardless of the types of units they supported, the 157th Inf. Bde trainer/mentors stayed focused on the unit leaders' actions.

"Each unit has the potential to work in a vacuum," said Sgt. 1st Class Julie Hampton, a trainer/mentor with the 157th Infantry Brigade. "Our job is to mentor the leadership of the units to help these four units work together and make their operations seamless."

At each mission completion, 157th Inf. Bde trainer/mentors conducted either formal after-action reviews, or informal reviews known as "hot washes."

The lead trainer/mentor began with an overview of the exercise, then broke down the exercise into smaller segments and walked the participants through what they did, and why they did it.

"Instead of telling a group of Soldiers what they did right or wrong, we ask leading questions to open up the conversation among the Soldiers," explained Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Hammond, a trainer/mentor with the 157th Infantry Brigade. "It is better if they lead the discussion to come up with solutions that fit their own SOPs (standard operating procedures) and unit culture. This way they can take ownership of the process."

Some units were notionally represented on a computer, but for the many Soldiers on the ground, it was fast paced, and learning was universal.

"The 300th Chemical Company, 485th Chemical Battalion, 415th Chemical Brigade, out of Morgantown, W.Va., remained motivated throughout the entire exercise," said Master Sgt. Ronetta Martin, another a trainer/mentor with the 157th Infantry Brigade. "They never let any situation get them down, and each day they improved their mission posture. My military occupational skill is Chemical Biological, Radiological and Nuclear specialist, and I shared my experiences as well as learned some new techniques, tactics and procedures."

The 157th Infantry Brigade trains and mentors reserve-component units to prepare those forces for deployment and contingency operations by providing realistic and relevant, complex operational environment based training reflecting the most current conditions Soldiers will face in theater.