FORT POLK, Louisiana - Interoperability is a key component for major training events. For 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), their rotation to the Joint Readiness Training Center is highlighted with augmented units from across the 101st formation, multinational partners and National Guard Soldiers.
More than 100 Illinois National Guardsmen from the 333rd Military Police Company traveled from primarily the greater Chicago region to Fort Polk, Louisiana in support of rotation 16-06.
"Our role is to participate in the exercise in order to get maximum training value to the 101st training event," said Capt. Kyle Scifert, commander of 333rd MP company.
The Illinois Soldiers are in a split role with acting as the notional host nation security force role in Dara Lam with the Ugandan People's Defense Forces and participating with a special forces team, also on the friendly element side in support of "Bastogne."
"It's a great opportunity for my Soldiers to get visibility on an active duty component so that they can learn their experiences right alongside them, while getting an idea of the bigger picture of participating in an exercise like this," Scifert said.
For Scifert and more than 50 of his Soldiers, acting as the host nation of Atropia also presented a unique experience of working with a contingent of Soldiers from Uganda.
"That's been a great experience working with the Ugandana People's Defense Force," Scifert said. "I think that brings in the real life part of the exercise because those cultural and conversational barriers are already in place, just by the nature that they are a foreign national force. The training value is even higher because there is no role play on their part, its real life."
Scifert said what's great about his unit's role in Dara Lam is, because they are the notional host nation security force, the Soldiers see how important partnerships, respect and cultural awareness is.
"I hope that they get a big picture understanding about how units maneuver and what it takes to actual employ this size of exercise," Scifert said. "Hopefully they get that exposure to understand that even their actions at the company level have second and third order effects operationally."
While there are always challenges a unit faces in planning for this large of an exercise, especially from the logistical standpoint, the National Guardsmen haven't encountered any issues working side-by-side with the 'Bastogne' brigade.
"They've been able to adapt very well with very little friction in their operation tempo," Scifert said. "I think this is a great opportunity for the National Guard and active duty components."
As far as some of the other anticipated challenges of Soldiers being able to adapt to this type of environment, Scifert said they haven't had any.
"It shows the Soldiers are mentally tough and ready for this exercise," he said. "We've been preparing for JRTC since October 2015."
As missions shifted and changed, the National Guards members remained flexible, adapting to meet all the demands of this rotation.
"Because we don't operate organically as a company, our teams, squads and platoons were all rearranged due to our mission set," Scifert said. "They've really done well in being able to adapt to different positions, different leaders and different mission sets."
Scifert, who has deployed twice-once to Iraq and once to Afghanistan, said his Soldiers need to be comfortable working side-by-side any Soldier, whether active, National Guard or multinational, and JRTC is a great facilitator for making that happen.
"When you're deployed, you deploy side-by-side with National Guard and active duty counterparts, so any training that can facilitate that integration prior to a deployment, I think only has benefits," Scifert said. "You gain a better understanding of how your counterpart's systems work and how they conduct training."