By 1st Lt. Leanna LitschNovember 23, 2016
CAMP GRUBER, Okla. -- Oklahoma Army National Guard members with 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT), conduct pre-mobilization training throughout November at Camp Gruber Training Center (CGTC), near Braggs, Oklahoma, in preparation for their deployment to Ukraine.
The 179th is the first of two six-month rotations to the Ukraine as part of the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine, a training mission focused on providing defensive and security training to Ukrainian forces within the U.S. Security Cooperation agreement.
With only a few weeks notice of the deployment, the IBCT had to rapidly gear up and ensure more than 250 Soldiers per rotation are ready to mobilize.
"Between mobilization and pre-mob training, there were really only a couple weeks," Col. David Jordan said, commander of the 45th IBCT. "The employers and the families had to make a lot of adjustments right away. None of us in uniform could do what we do without the families and the employers standing behind them."
Anytime the National Guard is called to deploy, they conduct "pre-mobilization training", where each unit is supervised by a Pre-mobilization Training and Assistance Element (PTAE). This element ensures unit readiness prior to moving onto follow-on mobilization training, typically held at an active-duty post. From there, the unit deploys overseas and conducts their mission.
Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Coffman, who helps plan and oversee the training, said that so far everything has gone smoothly.
"They have done a phenomenal job," Coffman said. "These guys that are actually conducting the training are getting excellent training themselves."
The training consists of a host of warrior tasks, including land navigation, weapons and hand grenade qualification, Situation Training Exercises (STX), medical training and more.
In Oklahoma's case, their pre-mobilization training takes place primarily at CGTC, the State's premier training area for military and civilian authorities. CGTC offers a variety of training areas, including weapons qualification ranges, urban and rural training areas, land navigation areas and so on.
The same pre-mobilization process will occur later next year for the IBCT's 1st Battalion, 279th Infantry Regiment, who are slotted to go on the second six-month rotation to Ukraine.
At times, the National Guard is called upon by the nation, where they transition to a federal status and fall under an active-duty Army command. As for the IBCT, they will ultimately fall under U.S. Army Europe for the duration of their time in Ukraine.
This is a first deployment for many Soldiers, and though the mission is focused primarily on training Ukrainian forces, it will also help shape Oklahoma Guardsmen, both in their Soldier skills and their understanding of other cultures.
"For cultural awareness, I've decided to create classes on Ukrainian cuisine, Ukrainian ethics," Sgt. James Elkins, III said. "We've started to pick up on that [Ukranian customs] and we enjoy the heck out of it."
Members of the 179th will get to enjoy Thanksgiving cuisine with their families before moving onto Fort Bliss, Texas to complete follow-on training. From there, they will head to Ukraine and conduct their mission.