Soldiers participate in AWA 17.1
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Pvt. Zachery T. Strother, assigned to 1st Platoon, A Company, 40th Engineering Battalion, watches for enemy movement from a staged attack position in an M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle while conducting training maneuvers during the 2016 Army Wa... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Tank charges through breach at AWA 17.1
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – An M1A2 Main Battle Tank assigned to 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment breaches through obstacles during the Army Warfighting Assessment (AWA) 17.1 at Fort Bliss, Texas, Oct. 21, 2016. The training was conducted as a part of AWA 17.1 a series of S... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Soldiers assault objective during AWA 17.1
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Infantrymen, assigned to B Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, assault an objective during the Army Warfighting Assessment (AWA) 17.1 at Fort Bliss, Texas, Oct. 23, 2016. This exerc... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT BLISS, Texas - Thousands of Soldiers, Multinational partners, Joint forces as well as members of industry have rotated through 11 Network Integration Evaluation exercises to date including the first-ever Soldier-led Army Warfighting Assessment, but the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division has been there since the beginning to support them all.

"We bring what no other unit does to AWA and that's predictability. We have soldiers assigned here that have been doing this for a while and have a battle rhythm down," said Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin V. DaGraca, senior enlisted leader, 2/1 AD. "We know what the testing requirements are, and we're able to use the tactical portion of this exercise as an opportunity to train our formations."

NIE provided a venue for operational testing of Army acquisition programs but has since evolved into the Army Warfighting Assessment exercise; the Chief of Staff of the Army's annual capstone exercise focusing on the refinement and improvement of concepts and capabilities in operationally-relevant yet demanding scenarios.

The Soldiers of 2/1 AD have a long-standing relationship with the Fort Bliss based, Brigade Modernization Command which has enabled their mission and proven to be invaluable.

"The BMC has done a very good job in letting us know the parameters of the tests," DaGraca said. "But, to be honest, 90% of the Soldiers here don't know anything about the assessments; they just go out, they train hard for their wartime mission and give good honest feedback on if they want to go to war with the equipment or if they don't."

Preparing for this year's AWA 17.1, 2/1 AD has trained between the deserts of Fort Bliss and White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, more than 3.2 million acres of some of the harshest weather conditions within the Army's arsenal to help assess over 40 concepts and capabilities outlined to meet the Army's warfighting challenges.

"One of the most powerful things we're doing is having our multinational partners here," said Charles C. Lombardo, commander, 2/1 AD. "We never deploy or fight alone anymore, so this is a mandatory benchmark for any assessment we're going to do in the Army or in the Department of Defense, to have our allies and coalition forces here."

AWA maximizes collective resources to advance Joint and Multinational interoperability, future force development, and unit training priorities, bringing a triple payoff.

Lombardo said not only is his unit assessing systems and capabilities but the ranges themselves have given them the opportunity to conduct multi-company live-fire training events that have enabled them to conduct live-fire certifications at a third of the training cost.

"Over the last 30 days we've been able to train our division staff, we've trained from platoon to division, and we're shooting from pistol to missile as this exercise will become the blueprint for our future training strategy," he said. "That's a credit to the unique capability that Fort Bliss and the 1st Armored Division brings, and to the relationship that the BMC and 2nd Brigade has built over the years."

Next month, 2/1 AD will return back to the U.S. Forces Command ready pool as one of nine armored BCTs in the Army and will, for the first time in six years, prepare for the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California where they will stand prepared to deploy for any geographical combatant commander in the fall of 2017.