By SGT ALEJANDRO SMITH-ANTUNA, 119TH MPADNovember 28, 2016
FORT HOOD, Texas (Nov. 16 2016) -- Soldiers of the 29th Infantry Division, Virginia National Guard, prepare for their upcoming deployment through the use of Warfighter Exercises (WFX) during their pre-deployment training here.
The WFX is approximately two weeks and is led by the unit's division commander Brig. Gen. Blake Ortner.
"The Soldiers have responded very well to the training," Ortner said. "Other than the week in the mud, building our tents for the TAC (Tactical Area Command) and the challenge of getting everything up, it was good. It built good teamwork as [the Soldiers] built it."
The WFX is a command and control exercise to test and evaluate a headquarters reaction and method of battle pertaining to its management and execution abilities. The 29th ID conducted a similar exercise in 2015 in preparation for the upcoming deployment.
"One of the advantages of a warfighter is it is a very challenging environment," he said. "There is a lot a stress. It teaches you to be able to operate under stress, time constraints and helps you build up the repetitions of how you are doing things. It gives you the ability to deal with [stress] if you are downrange in any situation."
Due to the unknown expectations or events that may happen, he said, the exercise helps you get used to dealing with the situation. Ortner said he was pleased with the WFX in 2015 and looks forward to this year's training iteration.
The division will be conducting the exercise out of tents to simulate the more austere environment for the deployment.
"The Army is trying to become more expeditionary in our ability to deal with more austere environments," Ortner said. "We've gotten very used to working out of hard-stand facilities and that is something we need to transition from. I think that it is the best way to train. It also makes you more mobile."
The division's main mission while deployed will be theater cooperation security.
"We are going to be working with a number of different countries training for interoperability and to build better relationships as we go forward," Ortner said. "We face some challenges working with our allies due to language barriers, so being able to go in and do things in advance really builds the unit's readiness."
"I think our soldiers are really looking forward to the mission. When we go on these missions and exercises it really gives us an opportunity to enhance the training and build the readiness and that is a big push of mine," Ortner said.