CAMP ATTERBURY, Indiana--With two weeks of training in the rear-view mirror, the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division wraps up their Warfighter exercise at Indiana's Camp Atterbury on June 14. The division level Warfighter served as a capstone exercise to validate and test Red Bull Soldiers, their systems and the ability of the unit to conduct simulated, full-scale military operations in preparation for their slated deployment this fall.
The end state and intention is to come out of the exercise with our Soldiers being "better trained to use our systems and know how to connect our systems to other war fighting functions' systems," said Army Sgt. Maj. Jeff Karna, the fires operations sergeant major for the 34th ID. "The big picture of success is for all sections to be ready to go to war and perform as a collective unit to defeat any enemy we are tasked to do so."
Having taken part in eight exercises of this scale, Karna has seen his fare share of challenging moments and worked tirelessly to overcome them.
"Training young Soldiers is one of my favorite things to do. Watching them learn and grow every day of the exercise keeps me going," said Karna. "Leaders, Senior Non-commissioned Officers, need to be the subject matter experts on our equipment and military occupational specialty tasks, we owe it to our Soldiers to train them, and they rely on us to be able to answer their questions on systems, tactics, techniques and procedures as well as taking care of them on a personal level."
Being well versed in their tasks, Soldiers are asked to put their skills to the test by connecting their section level army mission command systems into an interconnected network of systems to create a shared common operating picture, said Karna. This picture provides the commanding general the best current information possible for his decision making process.
Technology has afforded information to travel the world in a matter a seconds, where as not too many years ago, it could take up to a couple of weeks to travel the same distance. The importance of the speed of information is easily recognized by today's citizen-Soldier because they have been on both ends; receiving and sharing, said retired U.S. Ambassador Larry Butler, who served as political advisor (POLAD) to the commanding general, Army Maj. Gen. Ben Corell, during the exercise.
Having participated in 20 exercises as a POLAD since 2014, the Red Bull Division is the first National Guard unit he has worked with during a Division Warfighter.
"What I quickly figured out is, unlike a regular active duty division, which is 24/7-365 days a year military, guard divisions bring something more to the fight than a regular Army division does," said Butler. "As one person put it, 'they are able to think with multiple brains, as opposed to just an Army brain,' because almost all of them have a full-time job back home."
With civilian experience, many members of the National Guard are able to view and interpret aspects of the battle in different ways than their active duty counterparts. One major aspect of this is the information war. New technology and the speed of information through Facebook, Twitter and their international equivalents, may dominate the international and American public narrative in a matter of hours as opposed to developing over days or weeks.
"War is not always fought with bombs or bullets anymore. They are fought with ideas. They are fought with social media. They are fought with influence over populations. It has become a lot more complex, a lot more dynamic. It requires a lot more thinking through," said Butler. "Our military can break things better than anyone else in the world. We are also the best at thinking about how we can influence populations positively. But the real question has come down to, 'How do you set the conditions to win peace?' This is where a National Guard unit is extremely effective because they are winning the peace everyday back at home."
Civilian skills plus very high-end military skills come together and can create sometimes a better outcome than a regular Army division has, added Butler.
With the completion of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division's Warfighter exercise, the Red Bulls shift their focus to preparing for what is quickly approaching on the horizon for its' Soldiers; deployment.
Conducting family pre-deployment preparation, finalizing administrative tasks, and packing equipment for shipping are now on deck with the completion of Warfighter.
"To the great people in Minnesota and the other states where the Soldiers of the 34th ID are drawn from, your brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, daughters and sons have given up 20-days of their lives to come out here to get ready to serve the nation if necessary," said Butler. "This is an investment and I know that there are employers where it is painful to see someone leave that is key to the organization, it is key to the United States as well as your community and it's appreciated."