By Capt. Ayden Thomas (181st Infantry Brigade)July 13, 2016
FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. -- Operation Group Eagle utilized 100 Observer Coach/Trainers from 181st Infantry Brigade, 120th Infantry Brigade and 91st Infantry Division to support a Warrior Exercise (WAREX) hosted by the 91st Training Division at Fort Hunter Liggett, California, April 28-May 14.
During the exercise, simulated combat scenarios were aligned with unit commander's training objectives and selected in order to increase the unit's readiness while offering a realistic training experience. The purpose of the WAREX was to support training at the platoon level and ultimately timely increase collective training proficiency.
Maj. Gen. Paul Benenati, First Army deputy commanding general for support, added, "The WAREX is an exercise where units are put through teams/squad platoons level proficiency that tests their ability to perform their technical tasks in a tactical environment under combat conditions. We bring resources and equipment to this training area that Soldiers and leaders wouldn't have access to at (their) home station."
Lt. Col. Frank Victor, commander of the 1st Battalion, 351st Infantry Regiment, 181st Infantry Brigade, spoke on the importance of WAREX stating that "WAREX and other similar exercises are important because as we move away from counter-insurgency to more direct action scenarios these exercises are vital for the guard and reserve, to transition from what we have done in the past to what we may see in the future," he said. "We have lost some skills over the years and these exercises provide the opportunity to get back to the basic field craft that we need as Soldiers."
Benenati described how First Army OC/Ts assist units in getting back to some of the basic field craft.
"First Army provides a level of technical expertise that trains Soldiers and leaders to develop the processes that lead them to the appropriate solutions. First Army OC/Ts lead them to develop the correct answer to the questions themselves."
OC/Ts very carefully provide doctrinal feedback using Training and Evaluation Outlines (T&EO) to make sure the units achieve a satisfactory level of proficiency and increase unit readiness.
181st Infantry Brigade supports this effort by providing experienced OC/Ts to help improve the overall readiness of National Guard and Army Reserve units in order to increase readiness and prepare the training unit to deploy and support unified land operations. During the exercise 181st Infantry Brigade provided OC/Ts from four of its nine battalions to increase 91st Training Division OC/T capacity.
Lt. Col. Corey Brunkow, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 340th Infantry Regiment, 181st Infantry Brigade, highlighted this support.
"During the exercise my unit serves to provide doctrinally sound, professional advice and assistance to enable the proficiency and readiness of the training units down to the platoon level," he said. "WAREX provides integration of all components at one time in one location and that's how we fight. When units leave WAREX they leave more prepared and knowing how to leverage various strengths and weakness."
The preparation for the exercise began a year earlier as 181st Infantry Brigade began to identify and contact units identified to train during WAREX. OC/Ts from the 181st attended initial, middle and final planning conferences in addition to contacting participating units throughout the year. This early coordination is a key component to synchronizing the unit's training needs with the OC/Ts preparation to support them in achieving their training goals.
For 181st Infantry Brigade, this is a continuation of ongoing efforts to help transition units into the available pool for deployment as part of the Sustainable Readiness Model. 181st Infantry Brigade also partners with 35 Army Reserve and National Guard Brigades, to include their subordinate units.
This robust, enduring partnership provides OC/T support and subject matter expertise to multiple Army Reserve and National Guard units, not only those attending WAREX training events.
Lt. Col. Dan Bard, commander of 1st Battalion, 310th Infantry Regiment of 181st Infantry Brigade spoke on the partnership.
"The OC/Ts embedded with each of these units are critical to 'hold a mirror' up in front of a unit and allow them to see themselves," Bard said. "The most important thing we do is provide feedback in the form of after action reviews and reports to allow the unit leadership to identify areas to sustain and areas for future training and improvement."
The OC/Ts embedded with the training units must also ensure they are knowledgeable in their particular Military Occupational Specialty, Master Sgt. William Rigdon, team non-commissioned officer in charge of Echo Team, 1st Battalion 310th Infantry Regiment, 181st Infantry Brigade, said.
"OC/Ts need to be the subject matter experts, otherwise you don't portray confidence toward the training unit and you want them to know that what you are telling them is based on doctrinal knowledge because everything we do is based on doctrinal knowledge. An OC/Ts job is not only to go out and OC/T during an exercise, it's also about teaching, coaching and mentoring reserve units and that's what the partnership is all about."
Lt. Col. Mark Robertson, a traditional Army Reservist and commander of 11th Battalion 104th Regiment, assigned to the 91st Training Division said, "It has been a real advantage working side by side with active duty OC/Ts because they are able to conduct training more often than our unit."
Robertson also said "combining the two components allows training units and OC/Ts the ability to have a greater understanding of the training environment and ultimately provide more comprehensive insights increasing the readiness of all involved."
The 181st Infantry Brigade partnership efforts will continue to provide professional, doctrine-based training to support not only WAREX but all combat support training programs. This dedication to improving readiness reinforces our mission to build collective readiness for all Army Reserve Units and National Guard units while remaining relevant and ready for their next mission.