FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- Paratroopers from across the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division put their collective skills to the test Jan. 12-16 during a Culminating Training Event at Fort Bragg.
The exercise, facilitated by the 82nd Abn. Div. and the 3rd Battalion, 353rd Armor Regiment's Security Force Assistance Training team from Fort Polk, Louisiana, focused on refining the brigades' capabilities to advise and assist Iraqi Security Forces.
About 1,000 Paratroopers from 3rd BCT are slated to deploy in the coming weeks and will work with the ISF to instruct them in a range of military skills to enable them to fight ISIL.
Maj. Odelle "Jibriel" Means, one of the lead planners for the CTE with 3rd BCT, said to prepare the Paratroopers for the advise and assist mission, the 82nd Abn. Div. and the SFAT team offered training that was tough and realistic. He said the most important component of the exercise was the key leader engagement training, which partnered each 3rd BCT SFAT team with a group of Iraqi army role players.
Means described the KLE training as tremendously important in helping prepare leaders to effectively coach, teach and mentor their Iraqi military counterparts.
"It's [about] building that rapport to be able to build that trust," Means said.
Lt. Col. Bryan L. Babich, commander of 1st Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd BCT, and an SFAT team leader, agreed.
"All the battalion's SFATs are made up of just the absolute best noncommissioned officers and staff officers," Babich continued. "You're playing with the all-stars, they've got the right attitude, they come together and to get [this] one week of training that we had, all it does is boost that confidence that we work well together as a collective."
Col. Curtis A. Buzzard, commander of 3rd BCT, said the KLE training was critical to preparing his Paratroopers for the mission ahead.
"It helped our experienced leaders refresh on the steps necessary to plan, prepare, rehearse, execute and assess the engagement and also required us to exercise basic negotiation skills, mediate conflict and use a linguist," Buzzard said. "Scenarios also included staff partnering across the SFAT, which provided our more junior leaders a chance to practice these same steps and make mistakes here rather than overseas."
Babich said he is confident the training prepared his SFAT team, as well as the teams across the brigade.
"We're optimistic [because] we understand what our mission is, we understand that part of what we'll need to accomplish up front is understanding what we can provide and how that's different from when we were there before," he said. "We'll be able to communicate and develop some sort of common operational picture for Col. Buzzard and his chain of command--you can really see that's where we can truly make a difference."