By Sgt. 1st Class Darron Salzer, First Army Division EastApril 23, 2018
For many, success -- more often than not -- is hard earned and rarely achieved within a vacuum. As the old saying goes: "Behind every great man is a great woman."
Applying that line of thought to military operations means it's almost certainly the hard work and dedication of a team, coming together for a singular and common goal, which will ultimately lead to a successful mission.
Nothing less could be said of the observer coach/trainers of the 177th Armored Combined Arms Training Brigade, First Army Division East, who have been relentless in their efforts to train, validate and mobilize their partners from the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division.
And at the heart of the ongoing mobilization exercise here is the operations section, or S3.
"You could think of the S3 as the nerve center of the operation," said Army Maj. Bob Bystrek, assistant operations officer and battle captain for the 177th Armd. CATB, First Army Division East. "Information comes in and information goes out, and it's all processed by the operations shop."
That information can flow into the S3 via reports or orders from any number of subordinate- and senior-level organizations.
"We're constantly receiving and disseminating information on personnel, logistics and communications statuses from subordinate units, as well as orders from various higher headquarters," said Army Capt. Tristan Harrington, the 177th Armd. CATB chief of operations.
The S3 is also monitoring and assessing the real-time training feedback from battalions across the 177th as their partners from the 155th ABCT progress through their mobilization training objectives.
As information is received, Harrington said it's up to the S3 to decipher, repackage and redistribute it in various, easy-to-understand products for the 177th commander, Army Col. Jack Vantress, and other stakeholders to reference during their decision making processes.
According to Harrington the most essential product is the daily battle update.
"[It] keeps the task force commander [Col. Vantress] informed because he needs to be aware at all times where we are at on this 'glide path' toward having the 155th validated so they can deploy," Harrington said.
According to Harrington, any instructions or changes made to that "glide path" by Col. Vantress are processed by and pushed out from the S3 to all subordinate units -- a daily occurrence.
Harrington said for the S3 to continuously track these changes and push out updated information in real-time, it takes a system of systems -- in other words, it takes a team for the S3 to succeed.
"We have a robust team," he said, "and we're all trained to step in and perform any of the duties required of our section in order to keep the mission going."
Bystrek agreed, saying people are always at the heart of it all.
"It's important in an exercise like this, the mobilization of a large organization like the 155th ABCT, that we have the right people in the right jobs to process data and information and turn it into knowledge and understanding," he said.
"[Commanders] really rely on the S3 section to give them that complete picture so they can quickly make a decision that's best for the partner unit, our unit and our Soldiers," he added.
Doing what he can to contribute to the commander's decision making process, and ultimately the successful training and validation of the 155th ABCT, is a serious endeavor for Bystrek.
"Knowing that they are potentially heading into harm's way means doing whatever we can to get them validated and meeting their training objectives so they can not only do the job well but come home safe and sound as well," he said.
In a way, Bystrek said working in the S3 feels like giving back.
"We've all been in their shoes," Bystrek said of the pre-mobilization process. "This is our chance to give back, to use what we've learned and prepare them mentally, physically and emotionally for the mission they are about to do."
"That's the most important thing and doing what we can here in operations specifically to contribute to that is very important," he said.