By Sgt. Joshua LaidackerJuly 30, 2014
CAMP BLANDING, Fla. - Soldiers of 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, out of Fort Stewart, Georgia, supported the Florida National Guard's 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team's eXportable Combat Training Capability exercise at Camp Blanding, Florida, July 7 - Aug. 1.
"[XCTC] is a home station combat training center rotation," said Lt. Col. Scott Shaw, commander of 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th IBCT.
The XCTC is a program used by the Army National Guard, which delivers combat readiness training to soldiers at or near their home stations.
During the exercise, the 4,300 National Guard soldiers and 700 4th IBCT soldiers, a large majority of which were 3-7 Infantry, were divided into opposing forces and friendly forces, known as BLUFOR. Two companies from 4th IBCT acted as BLUFOR in support of 53rd IBCT's training mission.
"The XCTC allows Guard BCTs to enhance their level of readiness on both individual and collective level," said Col. Mike Canzoneri, commander of the 53rd IBCT, and native of Panama City Beach, Florida. "Because of our relationship with 3rd ID, we have obviously a quality augmentation force to be the [opposing force]."
The Vanguard Brigade has a special relationship with Florida National Guard's 53rd IBCT in that they are partnered at a national level.
"We developed a relationship and a very good partnership in terms of what we can do for each other," said Canzoneri. "There are a lot of mutual benefits to two like brigades this close together being able to train."
Canzoneri said he thought one of the most beneficial aspects of the event was the flow of information between individuals and leaders to their counterparts during after action reviews, offering a direct line of information about performance on both sides and the insights gleaned from those discussions.
Both Canzoneri and Shaw remarked that the history 53rd IBCT has with 3rd ID runs deeper than the training partnership or total Army initiative.
"This BCT has a history with 3rd ID," said Canzoneri. "The largest mobilization since WWII was in OIF I (Operation Iraqi Freedom) and the 53rd Infantry Brigade was assigned to 3rd ID."
"We've got to keep our relationships as solidified as we are right now coming off of 13 years of war," said Shaw, a native of Little Rock, Arkansas. "We can't do what we need to do without our partners in the Army National Guard."
Shaw also mentioned the relationship benefits both IBCT's in that in the future it would be easier to combine the combat power of these IBCT's into "one total force."
The soldiers of 3-7 Infantry not only enabled training, but also took the opportunity to do conduct training themselves.
"While we are the opposing force, fire and maneuver is fire and maneuver," Shaw said, adding that while the weapons systems may be different in name, their functions in combat are the same, allowing the soldiers of 4th IBCT to train while facilitating the training of 53rd IBCT.
Shaw added the soldiers of 4th IBCT also used the training areas to conduct squad live fires, mounted platoon live fires, fire mortar systems and conduct a battalion air assault.
Canzoneri added there are many opportunities for his brigade to work with the Vanguard Brigade in the future including Vanguard Focus, a training event for 4th IBCT.
"The Army's in a big push for the affiliation for training, and I would say the relationship between 3rd ID, [4th IBCT] and the 53rd should be the model for what the Guard should go to and the rest of the Army should try to emulate," said Canzoneri. "It's win-win for both units, and there's a lot of good taken out of it."