By Spc. Cassandra Simonton, 116th Public Affairs North Dakota National Guard June 11, 2014
ADAZI, Latvia -The Observer Coach Trainer (OCT) briefing for the 2014 Saber Strike exercise took place on the opening day of the event at the Adazi military post near Riga, Latvia. U.S. Army Europe and regional Baltic partners are focusing on joint and combined interoperability with regional partners during the fourth annual exercise, which will span June 9 - 20.
OCT plays a vital role in any large mission by providing guidance to the soldiers who will provide the instruction during the exercise. The observers are there to coach and guide service members by watching them perform specific tasks and providing immediate feedback as well as written recommendations.
"Our goal is to lead the partnered units to a greater self awareness and desire to improve upon themselves," said Maj. Joseph Lane, one of the instructors for the course with the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Germany.
Previously the U.S. Army had used the observer/controller method, which was much more strictly monitored. The new method is about learning and growing knowledge together and providing feedback in a timely manner. Now the coaches would not distract from training unless there was a direct safety hazard.
"There is a similar concept in the British Army, except the U.S. Army has a dedicated team, whereas in the British Army, all Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs) are expected to do it at some point," said Sgt. James Pierce of the British Army and Infantry C-Company.
There are several service members from the British Army participating in Saber Strike; a small group from C-Company is partnering with the Estonians to run one a portion of the exercise, to include training defenders and attackers, said Pierce.
"OCT is vital to achieve any training objective," Pierce said. "Without feedback or the right direction you would essentially be blind, you wouldn't know what had gone wrong or where your gaps were."
Pierce said he was most interested in working with the other countries to see their different tactics and methods in which other nations approached and solved problems. He said Saber Strike is a great opportunities to grow and learn from each other.
"In the simplest form, Observer Coach Training is when the trainers provide feedback to the unit in order for them to improve," Lane said.
Lane said it was not a matter of expecting every soldier to be excellent, but rather to allow each individual improve from whatever level they were at before.
Lane said the first week of Saber Strike will be conducting training in a lane setting with immediate feedback. The following week, service members will be in the field for a 24/7 mission with some immediate feedback, but the majority of the reviews will come in written comments after the exercise is complete.
"The hardest part of this training is trying to convey to each group that this is their training, and they will get out of it whatever they choose," Lane said. "I really enjoy working with the multinationals and watching how they do things differently, and often I learn a better way to do things.
"The best thing we can take from this is confidence in our NATO partnerships and knowing their partner countries are capable," Lane said.