By Sgt. Karen Sampson, 177th Armored Brigade PAO NCOICApril 28, 2014
CAMP SHELBY, Miss. -- Troop preparation for overseas contingency operations in combat theater stood entrusted to First Army Division East's, 177th Armored Brigade for 10 years. The historic mission, supporting Soldiers in deployment rotation to and from areas of conflict, is now considered a legacy.
The prior mobilization and demobilization mission required two brigades, the 177th Armored Brigade and the 158th Infantry Brigade, assisted in training units of various occupational skill sets.
Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 410th Field Artillery and the 1st Battalion, 346th Air Defense Artillery Training Support Battalion directive attacking the future mission, is to focus the brigade on its mission of origin, said Lt. Col. Joseph A. Jackson, native of Middleton, Ohio and battalion commander of 2nd Battalion, 410th Field Artillery.
"We are starting to build our bench," mentioned Jackson.
The commander's reference structuring a competitive baseball team's starting line-up for a successful spring season is an adequate analogy to the requirements established by the mission reset.
"Soldiers are being retrained in the field artillery skill set, and more Soldiers are being assigned with artillery focused training," said Jackson.
"Our battalion's eventual configuration includes three Observe-Coach/Trainer teams, Alpha, Bravo and Charlie batteries, and a headquarters," said Jackson.
The 2nd BN, 410th FA's mission plan expands their capability of O-C/T operations for two, possibly three artillery battalions simultaneously, he said.
Soldiers of the 177th AR Bde continue to meet the challenge of transition, exceeding all First Army's demands. During February and March timeframe Soldiers of the brigade supported redeploying Soldiers still crossing the threshold while attending extensive O-C/T training requirements for the upcoming mission.
"The 1st Battalion, 346th Regiment was in charge of mobilization and demobilization operations," said Lt. Col. Kevin "Buzz" Ingram, native of Cairo, Ga., and commander of the 1st Battalion, 346th Air Defense Artillery Training Support Battalion. "The operations ceased mid-spring."
The battalion assumes the dual responsibility, performing two major operations in a concise time frame, he said.
"Internally we had two battalions operating as one," said Ingram. "Some battalion staff was operating the demobilization mission, some are working to stand up the ADA mission intended for full operation by June one."
As the busy demobilization operations ended, FA and ADA Soldiers endured back-to-back training rotations. Ingram also mentioned firm time constraints and challenges planning such a transition with so many moving parts.
"It's similar to building an airplane while in flight!" exclaimed Ingram. "This transition involves rapid rotation of personnel."
"Qualified air defender NCOs and officers from the 1st BN, 346th ADA Regt. concentrate on refinement of training plans in air defense artillery focused on the Avenger Weapon System," said Ingram.
The Avenger Weapon System is a "shoot-on-the-move" air defense weapon. Manufactured by Boeing, the system is a transportable surface-to-air missile fire unit containing eight Stinger missiles in two missile pods. It acquires, identifies, tracks and engages targets from a stationery position or moving.
"We have several tasks to certify our artillerymen in order to meet the intent of First Army," said Maj. Dewayne K. Bailey, Bravo Battery officer in charge for 2nd Battalion, 410th Field Artillery.
The 2nd BN, 410th FA are recertifying their Soldiers on weapons operations, fire direction and call for fire, he said.
"Our Soldiers are excited. So far, we have one unit we'll be involved in training, 1st Battalion, 117th Field Artillery, Alabama National Guard," said Bailey. "We will attend their inactive duty training and their annual training held here and at Camp Blanding, Fl., early spring."
Both battalions are in support of each other's progress, said Bailey.
"Soldiers of the 2nd BN, 410th FA are being trained Warrior Tasks for O-C/T qualification by the 1st BN, 346th ADA OC/Ts', in turn we will certify their Soldiers," said Bailey.
Both battalions confront the new mission with diligence and purpose. They are presently active attending observer-coach/trainer qualification course at the First Army Training Academy and updating necessary warrior task certifications. Mission requirements include mounted and dismounted land navigation, and the Army's Combat Lifesaver certification among other warrior tasks.
Soldiers from Alpha Battery, 2nd BN, 410th FA recently traveled to the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California, to apply their O-C/T training knowledge assisting a unit from Fort Bliss, Tx., augmenting with the O-C/Ts on ground for the month-long field training, said Staff Sgt. Eric D. Walker, 2nd BN, 410th FA, Alpha Battery O-C/T.
"For past years, our mission with an incoming unit's mobilization/demobilization, our Soldiers planned mission specific oriented training and executed cumulative training exercises to prepare units for their overseas missions," said Walker.
"The NTC was a very significant training to transition our battery's Soldiers into occupation specific mode," he said.
Industrious research and planning honed by historic expertise, the brigade, counters to take the next mission in to the future, said Col. William Chlebowski, commander of the 177th Armored Brigade.
"The end of the mobilization/demobilization mission has come and gone; the mission is accomplished and exceeded all First Army's expectations. The command ordered the brigade to assume its mission of field artillery and air defense artillery training support operations," he said. "Concentration on the origin of the brigade is towards becoming effective observer/coach trainers to partner with National Guard and Army Reserve units assisting their pre-mobilization readiness."
First Army Division East, in partnership with the USAR and ARNG, advise, assists and trains Reserve Component Forces, in both pre and post mobilization through multi- component integrated collective training, in accordance with Army Total Force Policy, Department of the Army, FORSCOM and First Army directives in order to achieve ARFORGEN directed readiness requirements.