FORT MEADE, Md. (Sept. 3, 2013) -- Despite the drawdown in Afghanistan, National Guard units must continue to train to maintain their readiness to support the nation's defense. According to the senior enlisted advisor of the National Guard's 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, or IBCT, the training First Army Division East team recently brought his unit is second to none.

Division East's trainer/mentors combine their individual military skills and experiences with the skills they've acquired training reserve-component, or RC, units over the past decade for combat and use them to assist RC units in maintaining that same high-level of operational readiness.

"For the good of the United States, we have to maintain our readiness," said Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Quick, 86th IBCT senior enlisted adviser. "We aren't active duty Soldiers that train 24/7, but when our nation needs us, we need to be just as prepared as everyone else. We are one team. My uniform doesn't say 'National Guard' on it. It says 'U.S. Army.' Our readiness is our relevance to our great nation."

Soldiers assigned to the 86th IBCT, headquartered in Vermont, conducted a variety of training exercises at Fort Drum, N.Y. during the month of August with the assistance of the 4th Cavalry Brigade, First Army Division East. The training validated the 86th's readiness in preparation to a comprehensive training exercise held at the Joint Readiness Training Center, at Fort Polk, La., next year.

"For a couple of years now, the unit has been preparing for a JRTC rotation," Quick explained. "They have put forth a lot of effort to get to this point in their training. Doing all kinds of training during their drill weekends were some of the many boxes we had to check to get ready."

The 86th started the training with a command post exercise focused on leaders and went on to complete situational lane training exercises focused on individual and collective skills. Prior to the exercise, 4th Cavalry leaders worked with the 86th IBCT to identify their mission requirements and determine the commander's objectives for the training.

"This is an opportunity to get the collective training over a period of time that they can come together train, practice, work on products, and understand where their war fighting functions fits in an operation," said Lt. Col. Paul Ramsey Jr., deputy commander of 4th Cavalry Bde. "It's an exercise more for the brigade commander to have the opportunity to see his brigade staff and where he needs to concentrate his training and remaining training opportunities."

The entire exercise is extremely interactive. The trainer/mentors worked with the 86th IBCT helping them understand doctrine and understand their own capabilities from an outside perspective, said Lt. Col. Fred West, the commander of 1st Battalion, 410th Field Artillery, 4th Cav Bde.

"We work with Guard and Reserve units we train to be able to meet their mission requirements," West added.

"This allows a unit to better see themselves and better understand any kind of training short comings or deficiencies they may have and gives them best practices on how to work on those issues when they get back to their home-station," West said.

One of the unit's objectives during the training was getting back to the basics. Leaders in the 86th appreciated the trainer/mentors, or T/Ms, doctrinally based training.

"As trainers, they are very much in-tune with doctrine and Army policies," said 1st Sgt. Thomas Graves, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 86th IBCT. "First Army T/Ms used their background to teach us many best practices in various areas like equipment, strategy, TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures), and even communication."

The goal, for the 4th Cav trainer/mentors, was to expand on the 86th IBCT Soldiers individual experience levels.

"A lot of these Soldiers (86th IBCT) already have combat experience," Ramsey said. "For the last 10 years we have been focusing on a counter-insurgency (COIN) operations, but we now need to be able to operate in a direct action training environment. What we used to call high-intensity combat. Some of the Soldiers have a great deal of experience in COIN, so we are expanding the training experience in order to enhance other skill sets."

Quick said he appreciated the level of knowledge and subject matter expertise the 4th Cavalry Brigade trainer/mentors brought his Soldiers.

"They've been great," explained Quick. "They bring a wealth of knowledge to this training; and they've been with us from the very beginning. They come to the table not only bringing knowledge but they make you feel like you can ask any question."

The same sentiment was shared across the 86th IBCT.

"They mentored and evaluated us on everything we have done from start to finish," said Graves. "They gave us ideas in what we needed to do moving forward. They truly have the mentorship role."

Another aspect of the training Quick liked was 4th Cavalry Brigade's "one-team concept."

"There is no one saying they are the boss," he said. "Instead, everyone has come together as a team. That is a big key for training and learning -- having the ability to mentor and be mentored."

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First Army Division East's primary mission is to mobilize, train, validate and deploys reserve-component units to support overseas military operations. The unit's eight brigades strive to ensure training is relevant, realistic and reflects the most current conditions Soldiers will face in theater. This directly supports the Chief of Staff of the Army's priority of providing trained, equipped and ready forces to win the current fight, while maintaining responsiveness for unforeseen contingencies.