By Sgt. Brian C. EricksonMarch 13, 2015
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- The Soldiers of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division spent two grueling weeks facing off against opposing forces (OPFOR) in order to test their skills during Exercise Lightning Forge, Feb. 23 to Mar. 6 2015.
Lightning Forge represented the final event in mastering the brigade's ability to command, sustain, and fight as a brigade prior to the unit's upcoming rotation at Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, Louisiana.
Over the course of two weeks, Bronco Soldiers from all six battalions were deployed to several training areas throughout the Hawaiian Islands.
"This event was distinctive in the fact that it allowed us to validate our tactical standard operating procedures (SOP) and provide the commander with the insight needed to execute continuous sustainment support to the brigade," said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Stoddard, senior enlisted leader, 325th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd BCT. "The bottom line is the uniqueness of this event helped train the support battalion, a true combat multiplier, to facilitate the brigade's overall mission."
This massive event is the largest exercise the Island of Oahu has seen in more than a decade and the training the Bronco Brigade received is immeasurable.
"The benefit of these types of exercises is that the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Capability (JPMRC) is able to replicate the Combat Training Center (CTC) environment for us locally," said Col. Scott Kelly, commander, 3rd BCT.
During the two week event, Soldiers fought hard against simulated combatant forces in an effort to protect the international borders of the fictional Ari Republic. The Soldiers found themselves up against force-on-force lethal enemies and non-lethal attacks.
"The OPFOR distributed propaganda videos of fake misconduct by our Soldiers, which required immediate investigation to clear our forces of any wrongdoing," said Maj. William Ward, brigade judge advocate, 3rd BCT. "Working together with our other non-lethal partners to successfully counter this misinformation and support the commanders on the ground proved to be critical to completing the larger mission."
To successfully "win the war," the brigade had to complete a combined offensive attack against a near-peer enemy threat.
"This exercise allowed us to show everything that the Soldiers are capable of doing," said Lt. Col. Daniel K. Mark, commander, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd BCT.
Actors and Observer Controllers came from several locations to make this training as beneficial to the brigade as possible. Soldiers from as close as the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th ID and others as far away as Guam, Fort Lewis, and Germany pitched in to make this exceptional training event a success.
"I'm extremely proud of what our Soldiers have accomplished here," said Col. Scott Kelly, commander, 3rd BCT. "The training they received will ultimately strengthen our relationships with our partnered nations."