This is the first time the group's headquarters was able to conduct training with one of its subordinate battalions, the 184th Ordnance Battalion (EOD), and two of the battalion's companies, the 49th Ordnance Company (EOD) and 717th Ord. Co. (EOD), at the same time.
The exercise included External Evaluations for the two companies as they prepare to deploy in support of contingency operations in Asia while simultaneously giving the group and battalion an opportunity to increase their level of preparation for no-notice, world-wide deployment.
"It is all about readiness, so we wanted to get the group and the battalion and the companies in the field at the same time," said Col. Mark Faria, commander of the 52nd Ord. Grp. (EOD), 20th CBRNE Cmd. "To really get after readiness so the companies would feed up information, as they were getting validated for deployment, to the battalion. Then the battalion would feed the group just like you would during a normal deployment. Having that multi-level of interaction really helped exercise the staff, while we validated the companies for deployment."
Many of the two-Soldier EOD teams thought the training they received was highly effective.
"The training was great. We do not get to see a lot of these problems on a day to day basis, so having these complex problems is really beneficial; definitely for people that are deploying," said Spc. Andrew Counts, an explosive ordnance disposal team member with the 717th Ord. Co. (EOD), 184th Ord. Bn., 52nd Ord. Grp. (EOD), 20th CBRNE Cmd. "This overall training went really well. We had 'first seen' ordnance items, we have had to do technical intelligence - which is done on those first seen ordnance items where we have to tell higher headquarters what we saw with descriptions, with pictures, x-rays or word of mouth because those items are going to be seen throughout the time that we are going to be training, so everything builds on itself."
The other company had similar reviews of the training as a whole, even going on to highlight the individuals responsible for grading their performance on the exercise.
"(The training) was good, how realistic the scenarios were and actually going out with someone who is not from your unit or from your station and then having them evaluate you," said Spc. Matthew Morris, an explosive ordnance disposal team leader with the 49th Ord. Co. (EOD), 184th Ord. Bn., 52nd Ord. Grp. (EOD), 20th CBRNE Cmd.
The sheer scope of bringing all of these elements out to the field spread out over five different locations, posed new challenges for getting all of the equipment and necessary support to all of those locations. The companies gave high praise for the support they had received throughout the exercise.
"From a logistical standpoint this exercise ran very smoothly, we had everything we needed: food, water, fuel. Logistical support from the battalion, to the company, to the platoon has been flawless," said 1st Lt. Rex Stanton, platoon leader of the 49th Ord. Co. (EOD), 184th Ord. Bn., 52nd Ord. Grp. (EOD), 20th CBRNE Cmd.
The group and battalion headquarters met their unit's needs for the whole exercise from a logistical stand point.
"Logistical support to the team leader on the ground is why I am here," said Staff Sgt. Leonard Moissl, mobility noncommissioned officer in charge for the 52nd Ord. Grp. (EOD), 20th CBRNE Cmd. "This exercise afforded the group strategic mobility section the opportunity to work with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Sustainment Brigade (372nd Composite Truck Company) to deliver our materials to multiple field sites/training areas, building a stronger working relationship and improving the overall readiness of the unit by being able to validate the provided installation support."
However, logistical support was not all that the teams needed. They had informational needs as well. The battalion in particular was able to directly provide information to the companies, who then would send it to their teams.
"The 184th Ord. Bn. (EOD) Intelligence section has been providing timely and informative intelligence reporting to the EOD Teams on the ground for the duration of the Multi-Echelon Exercise," said Capt. Andrew Fitzpatrick, the intelligence officer of the 184th Ord. Bn. (EOD), 52nd Ord. Grp. (EOD), 20th CBRNE Cmd. "Reports disseminated include ground intelligence summaries comprised of significant activities, weather data, Improvised Explosive Devise (IED) trends and predictive analysis of enemy activity in the Area of Operations."
The units experienced a significant amount of rain, high winds, and other inclement weather conditions over the course of the exercise. Luckily the weather did not directly affect both the group and battalion as they moved their Tactical Operations Center, known as a TOC, in the middle of the six-day period. Moving TOC locations introduced new challenges that all units had to overcome, especially in regards to establishing and maintaining communications throughout the movement period.
"From a communications stand point, the setting up of the TOC and then moving it was difficult," said Pfc. Craiven Chapman, a cable systems installer with Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 52nd Ord. Grp. (EOD). "To make the movement more difficult, we had to put on our Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (chemical protective suits) and continue the set up."
The group commander was suitably pleased with the overall performance of the Soldiers involved.
"I am really proud of what the Soldiers are doing out here, they have done a fantastic job," said Faria. "We have come leaps and bounds from where we were before and I am just really proud of the team, what it is they have been doing, how the Soldiers have been acting and (the Soldiers) had a good attitude through the whole process so it has been fantastic."
The group will be planning similar exercises in the future, all designed to prepare the Soldiers of the 52nd Ord. Grp. for whatever missions they are assigned to.