By Amanda C. Glenn, First Army Division East Public AffairsSeptember 12, 2013
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (Sept. 12, 2013) -- First Army Division East recently demonstrated its ability to conduct multi-component training to ensure the readiness of the Total Army Force in a fiscally constrained environment, joining internal and external active duty forces with reserve-component forces and showcasing relationships built over a decade of war.
"This was a training event planned and coordinated between the 10th Mountain Division, the U.S. Army National Guard Bureau, and First Army," explained Col. John Prairie, commander of 4th Cavalry Brigade, First Army Division East.
As the brigade commander in charge of the overall training package, Prairie worked with the commander of both the National Guard's 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and the commander of 1-71st Cavalry Squadron, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, to develop their overarching training objectives. He and his team then worked with the units to develop the training plan to validate each commander's objectives. He also coordinated and oversaw Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 22 Infantry Regiment, 1st BCT, 10th Mountain Division, for opposing forces, known as OPFOR, support.
"It was coordinated that the 10th Mountain Division would provide the opposing forces during the 86th [Infantry Brigade Combat Team] and 1st Squadron, 158th Cavalry Regiment, 58th [Battlefield Surveillance Brigade], exportable combat training capability rotation, and in return [the National Guard Bureau] extended the XCTC package to stay at Fort Drum, N.Y., for an additional 10 days to cover the training for 1-71st Cavalry Squadron," Prairie explained.
It was a win-win situation, allowing the First Army Division East unit to employ all the skills they've fine-tuned training reserve-component forces for deployment over the last decade. As part of First Army's overarching mission, training support brigades conduct mobilization, training support, and readiness validation of units throughout the Army Force Generation model. First Army Division East's multi-component formation delivers these capabilities in a cost effective and efficient manner -- focused on maximizing trainer to trainee ratios.
The 4th Cavalry Bde. trainer mentors first advised and assisted the 86th IBCT, first with a command post exercise, then situational training lanes that tested individual and unit collective training, before pulling everything together in a culminating training exercise.
"Based on positive trends from day one, talking to sections, reviewing products they are producing, you can see there is synergy going," said Col. John Boys, the 86th IBCT commander. "There is good cross talk among war fighting functions. There's vertical talk between the brigade and the battalion. I'm confident they have done some great things."
The entire training package for the 86th IBCT, headquartered in Vermont, but with Soldiers from five different states, took place over the unit's 10-day annual training period. According to Boyd, the training was outstanding. His senior enlisted advisor agreed.
"They bring a wealth of knowledge to this training, and they've been with us from the very beginning" said Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Quick. "They come to the table not only bringing knowledge, but they make you feel like you can ask any question. There is no one saying they are the boss. Instead, everyone has come together as a team. That is a big key for training and learning."
Once training with the 86th wrapped up, Prairie and his team focused their considerable attention on the 10th Mountain Soldiers.
"Both [ the National Guard Bureau] and 10th Mountain Division asked that the First Army trainer/mentor package stay at Fort Drum to coach and mentor this young active-component unit," Prairie said. "At the same time, we would provide external observations for the training event. This is truly a great example of multi-component training that can be conducted in the near future across the Army."
The First Army Division East team fell in on existing equipment, infrastructure and training simulation centers at Fort Drum to conduct the training, explained Prairie. This cost-effective method of training didn't require the First Army team to bring anything with them except personnel. Likewise, the location was central to the 86th's geographically dispersed down-trace units.
"During the initial planning of the 86th's XCTC, a decision was made to use the D Company, 2-22 Infantry Regiment, as the opposing forces," said Lt. Col Paul Ramsey, 4th Cavalry Bde's deputy commanding officer. "The savings generated by not having to import an OPFOR was then applied to an extended mission, allowing the 1-71st Cavalry to have a shorter XCTC-like exercise."
Ramsey explained this was a continuation of a relationship previously built. Earlier this year, D Company, 2-22nd Infantry Regiment, Soldiers traveled to Camp Atterbury, Ind., to serve as the security forces support during a Provincial Reconstruction Team training mission the 4th Cavalry Bde. oversaw.
"In general, we applied the same MTP standards to both the Army National Guard and the active component unit. One Army, one mission, one fight," Ramsey emphasized.
"This exercise showed all the positive aspects of doing multi-component training on an active duty post. It is a positive trend when each component in the Army can work together to achieve a unit's training objectives, and at the same time, implement several cost saving measures. This is the training model of the future where we truly show we are one Army and sustain the relationships (among active component/reserve component/National Guard) we formed through 13 years of combat," Prairie said.
Those relationships, built as the Army transformed the Army Reserve from a strategic to an operational reserve, were evident throughout the training, Prairie explained. He said saw no difference in the interaction between his mix of active duty and reserve-component Soldiers, the 86th IBCT's National Guard Soldiers and the 10th Mountain Division's active duty Soldiers.
"The interaction was incredibly positive and inspiring -- the same relationship you would find at other external training venues like the National Training Center, the Joint Readiness Training Center, or the Mission Command Training Program," Prairie explained. "The 1-71st Cavalry leaders and Soldiers were excited to be in the field training and were very receptive to the First Army [trainer/mentors'] observations and experience. They took to heart the training recommendations and improved steadily throughout the exercise."
"First Army did nothing different as we transitioned from training the 86th, a National Guard Organization, to the 1-71 Cvalry, an active-component unit. We used the same Decisive Action Training Environment observation documentation and AAR format that we would use for any Army organization AC, RC, or NG," Prairie concluded.
Employing the same training standard, relying on doctrine, calling it like they see it impressed the 10th Mountain Soldiers. The Company C, 2-22 Infantry commander was pleased with the training.
"They have been providing great insight for us and showing us different capabilities and techniques we have at our fingertips," said Capt. Dominique Rondanelli. "They have brought us best practices in real-world scenarios that we can combine with our standard operating procures to become more efficient and proficient. The Soldiers have received great feedback after every mission; what they need to improve, what they should sustain, and what they could do slightly different."