During a recent three-day visit to 5th Brigade 94th Training Division in Puerto Rico, Maj. Gen. A.C. Roper, commander of the 80th Training Command, said the brigade has unique qualities that he can't measure in a matrix during a PowerPoint presentation.
Fifth Brigade offers reclassification training in 10 Military Occupational Specialties and 12 Non-Commissioned Officer Education System courses, in compliance with U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command accreditation standards. The multifunctional Army Reserve unit is also the only MOS qualification brigade in the Army Reserve that is 100 percent bilingual. Col. Albert Morris, the commander, says the unit's location on the island, along with approximately 100 Spanish speaking Soldiers, makes it ideally suited for Theater Security Cooperation Operations in South America and the Caribbean. The brigade senior noncommissioned officer, Command Sgt. Maj. Javier FigueroaNunez, said, 5th Brigade instructors can teach Spanish-speaking South American Soldiers the same courses they teach to U.S. Soldiers, minus the language barrier.
"Why we're not already doing that? I don't know," FigueroaNunez said.
According to Morris, the Army Reserve, and 5th Brigade specifically, are more integrated with the National Guard in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands compared to the U.S. mainland where there's more cohesion between the Army Reserve and the active Army. For example, 5th Brigade is based at Fort Allen, which is a National Guard installation. So, while 5th Brigade instructors are capable of training service members of all three Army components, a significant number of Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands National Guard members attend 5th Brigade courses using National Guard facilities and equipment.
"Also, financially, it's more cost effective to have them train here [in the Caribbean] than to send them stateside," FigueroaNunez said. "Puerto Rican and Virgin Island Soldiers can train here in Puerto Rico, or if need be, we can send our instructors to the Virgin Islands and use the National Guard facilities."
During his visit to the island, Roper met with Maj. Gen. Marta Carcana the adjutant general of the Puerto Rico National Guard to discuss the relationship between the two components. Carcana said, the meeting presented an interesting exchange of ideas and a way to discuss what the Puerto Rico National Guard is all about, as well as the guard's interaction with the Reserve at all levels. Carcana said she was impressed with the possible training opportunities Roper and his team can provide to the guard, as well as the possibilities of joint training on the NCO Education System.
"It was a great opportunity to exchange thoughts regarding...the future of both the guard and reserve in the training arena," she said.
Following his meeting with Carcana, Roper flew to St. Croix and met with Maj. Gen. Deborah Y. Howell, the adjutant general of the Virgin Islands National Guard.
During the meeting, Howell mentioned that the guard had recently activated an engineer unit, and there was a need for Horizontal Construction reclassification training. Morris told Howell that 5th Brigade can accommodate non-scheduled training requests, which the brigade refers to as "Pop-Ups," so putting a class together would not be an issue.
"We typically have a 50% course increase a year from non-scheduled requests," Morris said.
At the end of the meeting, Howell expressed her satisfaction with Roper's visit and said she was looking forward to a long term partnership.
"I'm excited that he came because he brings some resources that we don't have," Howell said. "I'm also looking at training some of our other folks in the logistics field, and our leadership courses as well."
Roper said, there's a sense of teamwork and collaboration between the components in the Caribbean probably because they have to work together and depend on each other.
"For example, if a significant weather event occurs, they have to hold it together until additional resources arrive from the mainland," he said. "I felt a sense of family and connectivity that's not as prevalent in other locations."
"I'm pleased with the level of cooperation between the 5th Brigade and the Puerto Rican Army National Guard," he added. "We're already sharing some opportunities regarding billeting, classroom space, and dining facilities, and so we want to maximize the efficiencies as much as possible because we're all operating in a constrained fiscal environment...so we need to be as effective and efficient as possible."