HOHENFELS, Germany- From part-time to full-time in a blink of an eye - at least that's what it seems like for many members of Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment of the Louisiana Army National Guard. Their current mission is to provide opposing forces during Combined Resolve VII at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, here.
The Louisiana Guard unit performed a critical role in a very large exercise by providing an opposing force for an active-duty U.S. Army brigade, the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division and units from NATO allies and partner countries participating in exercise Combined Resolve VII.
Combined Resolve VII is a 7th Army Training Command, U.S. Army Europe-directed exercise taking place at the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels Training Areas, Aug. 8 to Sept. 15, 2016. The exercise is designed to train the Army's regionally allocated forces to the U.S. European Command. Combined Resolve VII includes more than 3,500 participants from 16 NATO and European partner nations.
Knowing they fit into this larger picture is very rewarding to the company's executive officer, 1st Lt. Zachary Jongema, who hails from Alexandria, Virginia, but now lives in Leesville, Louisiana.
"It seems like every year we are called up to react to flooding or hurricanes and that readiness transfers over and allows us to step into our federal orders and prepares us to fill any role asked of us," said Jongema.
The Louisiana National Guard as a whole has seen plenty of activity as of late with their state's flooding, so it's even more impressive to see them fly across the globe shortly after that to help the active duty component train at Combined Resolve VII.
Jongema added, "We are on constant standby, especially during hurricane season, late summer, early fall. I think that blends in really well when we get called up to do rotations such as this, or if the time comes, a deployment."
Combined Resolve VII won't be the end of the mission for this unit either. Some of these soldiers and several more from their battalion will deploy over the next two months to Hohenfels to support operations at JMRC. During Allied Spirit V, they will have the unique opportunity to provide a maneuver company to the allied multinational task force training in the exercise.
Finally, a third Louisiana Army National Guard company will deploy to support a Kosovo Forces exercise in October, and they will again provide the opposing forces during that exercise. National Guard and Army Reserve deployments like these play a vital role in United States Army Europe operations as it makes 30,000 soldiers look and feel like 300,000.
As with any Army National Guard unit, the members are composed of community members, such as mechanics, warehouse workers, bankers and lawyers. This commonality brings a different perspective to the average military unit that just might give them the edge as they take on their federal role.
This perspective is shared by Staff Sgt. Tyler Hardwick, who also lives in Leesville, Louisiana. As an infantryman who served on active duty prior to his Army National Guard time, he can see the Army National Guard's place within the larger total Army picture.
Hardwick said, "We've had two bad floodings back-to-back. We've worked tirelessly to help our community deal with their losses, so it's rewarding to be able to switch gears and now fill our federal mission's role as well."
Located at Fort Polk, Louisiana, the 3-156th routinely interacts with the active duty component of the Army, but rarely gets to train and work alongside them in this way. At Hohenfels, Jongema said everything went very smoothly. He arrived a week earlier than the main body of his unit and arranged lodging, equipment and everything required to complete their mission.
"We've been treated fantastic here," said Jongema, "and we look forward to working alongside the active duty Army on many missions to come."