By Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie Widemond, 188th Infantry Brigade Public AffairsSeptember 30, 2013
FORT STEWART, Ga. -- America's fighting Army is ready to go, anytime, anywhere, any mission. Recently, the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, a Georgia National Guard unit based out of Macon, GA, conducted readiness training at Fort Stewart to prepare both for an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan and for a regionally aligned mission in support of U.S. Army's Southern Command. First Army Division East's 188th Infantry Brigade's Observer Controller/Trainers provided training assistance to the Georgia Guardsmen throughout.
"Our 188th OC/T partners have really helped with our training. The biggest thing they do is help provide an extra set of eyes to our training," said Col. Randall Simmons, commander of the 48th IBCT.
He went on to say that with the 400 situational training exercises and more than 255 live fire exercises the unit had completed so far, there was no way his leaders could cover down and evaluate the companies and platoon on their own.
"It was beneficial to have an extra set of eyes to identify trends and areas of weakness, or things we need to work on," Simmons said.
In a deployed environment, Simmons continued, Guardsmen are often attached to their active duty counterparts to augment a commander's task force.
"The multi-component aspect is nothing different from how we've been fighting for the past ten years," he explained. "In both of my deployments, we were attached to an AC (active component) brigade. We're used to working alongside our AD and Reserve brothers and sisters, so having them play a significant role in training is no different than how we do it downrange."
Multi-component restructure may be the new direction the Army takes as it continues to downsize in order to maximize resources. Currently, the 188th's OC/Ts travel across the U.S. to provide training that meets unit commanders' objectives. Once at the training site, the OC/Ts embed with the training unit, ensuring consistency and developing relationships.
"Having the embedded OC/Ts living, working, and staying with the same team every team is very important," said Command Sergeant Major Shawn Lewis, command sergeant major for 48th IBCT.
He said it matters that his teams get used to having the same OC/T from beginning to end, stating that if a new person showed up everyday then there is no benefit, because each event can be nit-picked and torn apart.
"You have to know the scope, you have to know the operations order and the intent of the mission, because even at this exercise today, if someone were just to drive by, it looks like a bunch of Soldiers laying on a hill, shooting a bunch of guns, and that's not the case. This is a very deliberate action," stated Lewis.
According to Simmons, more than a third of his brigade has yet to deploy. They stand to benefit the most from the impending multi-component training structure.
"We have a synergy. Everybody that's been downrange in the past ten to twelve years has worked with a Reserve component unit at some level," said Lewis. He said his brigade is currently working on their fifth deployment as a brigade. The mutual respect that each component has for each other only adds to the lethality of the Army as a whole.
As part of their overall training, the 48th IBCT invited their employers to watch a combined arms live fire exercise so they could witness first hand just how ready the Guardsman are to defend the nation. The CALFEX incorporated National Guard from Georgia and South Carolina, with both ground and air support working in tandem as they would in a deployed environment.
During the CALFEX, the infantry Soldiers worked through a scenario involving multiple war-fighting elements to defeat an enemy. The 48th IBCT Soldier laid in wait as air crews with the South Carolina National Guard engaged targets downrange. The CALFEX incorporated NG from Ga. and S.C., with both ground and air support training involved. Once the smoke cleared, the infantrymen began cleaning up or neutralizing whatever survived the CAS strike.
Pvt. 1st Class Albert Waltz, a driver with Bravo Troop, 1st Squadron, 108th Cavalry Regiment is a new Soldier participating in a field exercise that will prepare him for a deployment. He enjoyed the new experience.
"It's nice to see the teamwork and the cohesion of an actual unit," stated Waltz, a native of Dahlonega who comes from a long line of military.
"It's as realistic as it gets," echoed Chief Warrant Officer 2 Murrah Fowler, AH-64 Apache pilot with 1st Battalion, 151st Aviation Regiment. He watched as his fellow guardsmen provided CAS for the infantrymen.
"It's pretty Hoo-ah!" beamed Spc. Edgar Gonzalez, 1-108 Cav. Regt. A scout who normally follows, observes, tracks and reports the movement and activity of the enemy in the field and their progress on the battlefield, Gonzalez donned a Ghillie suit during the CALFEX and demonstrated how he conceals his movements to advance on targets without detection.
According to Simmons, more than a third of his brigade has yet to deploy. They stand to benefit the most from the impending multi-component training structure. The CALFEX helped get everyone in the mindset that there will be more than just one unit on the battlefield.
"It's really good for us, the fact that we have our joint tactical air controllers working with our Army aviation. Many of our younger Soldiers that have never deployed certainly have not worked with TAC and for them to see the integration of all these assets into one event will help them in the future should they ever need to employ all these assets on the battlefield," Simmons concluded.