JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- The second annual Northeast Regional Field Artillery Symposium or NERFAS, was held at the Joint Training and Training Development Center here April 24-25, 2018.

The event, hosted by the 3-314th Field Artillery Battalion, 174th Infantry Brigade, brought together more than 60 Field Artillery Soldiers representing Army National Guard units from New Hampshire, Michigan, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the Canadian Army's 4th Regiment in an effort to build relationships and increase partner unit capabilities through the sharing of information and best practices.

The Soldiers were also joined by representatives from the U.S. Army Fires Center of Excellence or FCoE, National Training Center at Fort Irwin, the 10th Mountain Division, the Field Artillery Master Gunner School and Col. David Sanders, the 174th Infantry Brigade commander, who provided presentations on a variety of topics to those in attendance.

The symposium began with an overview of the 174th Inf. Bde.'s mission and lines of effort with a specific emphasis on increasing the collective readiness of partner units. Col. Sanders outlined how readiness is improved through the utilization of First Army Academy qualified Observer Coach/Trainers or OC/Ts, who serve as subject matter experts for the units they are assigned to.

The OC/Ts play an integral role in helping to identify and assess areas where units can refine their procedures and maximize effectiveness by implementing the Army eight-step training model in their interactions with training audiences.

Once the Brigade-level overview was complete, Lt. Col. Anthony Bianchi, the 3-314th Field Artillery Battalion commander, briefed the attendees on his unit's role in the partnership process by identifying relevant key trends in the areas of fire support, maintenance, the Military Decision Making Process or MDMP, and the development of standard operating procedures.

Bianchi's observations were gleaned from his unit's experience in supporting more than 30 partnership events ranging from eXportable Combat Training Capability or XCTC exercises, to planning conferences in the last 12 months.

With the topics of OC/T coverage and partnership covered, the discussion shifted to readiness of the Field Artillery units in the Army National Guard in brief given by Lt. Col. Timothy Vance, the Chief of Staff for the Deputy Commanding General Army National Guard in the FCoE at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Lt. Col. Vance discussed the Army National Guard 4.0 concept which is designed to build readiness by integrating identical Modified Tables of Organization and Equipment or MTO&Es, concurrent fielding of equipment and the Total Army Solution to meet emerging national security challenges.
Vance further discussed field artillery's place within the Army National Guard's force structure by highlighting the current capabilities at the battalion and brigade levels and projected growth in the future.

Highly trained and capable Soldiers are required for a unit to accomplish its mission and professional development is a contributing factor regardless of paygrade.

Command Sgt. Maj. Berk Parsons, the Command Sgt. Maj. of the Field Artillery, addressed this topic during his briefing on updates to the Noncommissioned Officer Education System or NCOES.

Parsons discussed changes to doctrine, a redesign of NCOES content and course delivery via milSuite, a secure online information sharing platform, for wider dissemination to students, in an effort to bridge the gaps between the current NCOES curriculum and real world application.

Readiness extends beyond the training of personnel and maintenance of equipment.

According to Army Doctrine Reference Publication 3-09, the fires warfighting function consists of delivering fires, integrating all forms of Army, joint and multinational fires and conducting targeting.

To achieve these tasks, fires assets must be able to work seamlessly with other sections in an operational setting.

At the division headquarters level, the fires cell is part of the Joint Air-Ground Integration Center or JAGIC, which is a modular joint coordination center that synchronizes joint fires and de-conflicts the use of airspace within the division's area of operations.

During the symposium, Maj. Ronald Mildren from the 10th Mountain Division, discussed composition, purpose and authorities of the JAGIC from his unit's perspective.

These authorities, according to Mildren, enabled more autonomy and lessened the time needed for decision making and target engagement.

Based on Mildren's presentation, the attendees came away with a greater understanding of the importance of how to incorporate their personnel into a JAGIC during future training events and build upon existing capabilities.

Armed with the information presented during the symposium, the 3-314th's partner units can improve readiness at the individual and collective levels, bringing more combat power to the total force.