BELLEMONT, Ariz. -Arizona Guard members from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade were at Camp Navajo Training Center June 3-17 training to fulfill their mission as a premier support unit, always ready to move to the fight.

The main focus of the MEB's annual training was to prepare for Warfighter, a three-week exercise that will take place later this year at Ft. Drum, New York.

The Warfighter exercise will prepare the MEB for the role the Army has tasked them to fill as an Army Early Response Force, which includes the HHC, and two subordinate units: the 153rd Brigade Support Battalion and the 365th Signal Company.

"The Warfighter exercise is helping us establish our training, evaluate our training, find out where we're at, try to get us to that next higher level of readiness and then we'll be in the AERF designation in training year 2018," said Col. Lonnie Branum, the 158th MEB brigade commander.

Tasking an MEB with the AERF designation is something the Army has not tried before.

"It's a relatively new concept for the reserve components," Branum said. "This is the first time that an MEB has been assigned as an AERF - we're chartering some new territory here."

The role of an HHC is to administratively support the brigade command team and ensure the training and supply requirements of the brigade are met. HHC will also set up the Tactical Operations Center, and other support equipment, like generators.

In order for brigade headquarters to be effective, they have to be able to connect with superior and subordinate units. The 365th ensures the brigade has secure and non-secure communications capacity and plays a vital role in the success of the MEB's mission.

"The brigade headquarters can't do its mission if we don't have the necessary connectivity to the adjacent and higher headquarters," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 George Wade, the information services technician with the 158th MEB. "The 365th provides that by giving us unclassified and secret voice and data networks through satellite and line-of-sight communications."

One of the challenges faced by the unit as they made their way up to Camp Navajo was a series of vehicle breakdowns largely due to the extreme heat of the Arizona desert, but compounded by the fact that some vehicles had to take on additional loads in order to get all of the brigade's equipment to the training site. However, those obstacles did not deter these Soldiers.

"We've had a great morale level this week coming up to Camp Navajo," said Capt. Curtis Jones, HHC, 158th MEB commander. "For the last six months, we've been able to really prepare for this. That really good preparation has shined through the challenges that we've come across."

Branum said that the unit's optimism and training gives the unit the ability to handle the pressure Warfighter will put on the unit and its members.

"It's also designed to focus on the unit's mission essential tasks while exercising all of our core war fighting functions and competencies," Branum said. "On top of all that it's really designed to create a high stress environment that takes the unit out of its comfort zone."

The Army defines a maneuver enhancement brigade as a multifunctional unit that has the basic role of providing command and control to integrate and coordinate maneuver support operations. This is done across all Army war fighting functions to support both offensive and defensive operations.

"This warfighter, we're getting ready to continue to build that foundation," Branum said. "We're going to continue to build on that, even as we're an AERF, we'll continue to refine our ability to conduct mission command [and] to conduct our mission as an MEB."

That devotion to increasing readiness is something that Branum sees throughout the MEB.

"I'm really proud of our Soldiers and continuously impressed by what they've accomplished, by their professionalism, their commitment, their dedication not just to their fellow Soldiers, but to their units, the Arizona Army National Guard, their communities, their families, and the nation," he said. "I really couldn't be more proud of them."