By Sgt. 1st Class Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public AffairsJune 27, 2018
GREENVILLE, Ky. -- The National Guard has remained an ever-evolving organization. 1636, 1792, 1861, 1916, 2001 are a few specific years marking critical changes in America's hometown defense force. How the National Guard fits into the battle rhythm of active duty forces as well as maintaining its own state's mission has always been in flux. In 2017, a new term, Army National Guard (ARNG) 4.0 was introduced, spelling out goals of increased readiness and capabilities to answer the demands of the total Army concept and the dual role of the National Guard.
For the Kentucky National Guard's largest brigade, ARNG 4.0 was at the top of the operational order for this year's annual training (AT).
Nearly 1,100 Soldiers of the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade descended upon the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center (WHFRTC) in Greenville, Ky., for their usual AT. Only this year, it was not business as usual.
"This AT was certainly unique," said Sgt. Dustin Mullins, protection NCO with HHC, 149th. "It definitely felt like we were on deployment. The brigade trained much closer together and the tempo was much faster."
According to the Army National Guard, units across the nation must aim to create a force that is more capable for the Army, better resourced and more responsive domestically within each state. The 149th MEB looked to answer this by asking more from its Soldiers; Deploy to AT, hit the ground running, face a live, thinking, hybrid threat and sustain their operations in a demanding environment.
Lt. Col. James Richmond, 149th deputy commander said the planning guidance from Col. Alexander Stewart, (MEB commander) for the AT was to make it austere, realistic, and immersed in U.S. Army Forces Command's (FORSCOM) "Big Six". The "Big Six" capabilities are shoot, move, communicate, medicate, sustain, and decontaminate.
"With this guidance, we developed a concept skeleton that exercised all the elements of the MEB in their core tasks," said Richmond. "We made it austere by deploying the units straight to the field on the first day of AT and staying there until the last possible day. This allowed us to 'play till the whistle blows.' The result was an arduous training exercise over 13 days that required night, CBRNE, tactical coms, real-world medical, and survivability operations."
That intent from the top filtered down to surprised but prepared battalions and companies who were not used to such an immersive AT. Maj. Joseph Fontanez, administrative officer with the 103rd Chemical Battalion said his troops adapted quickly to the changes, leading to a successful AT.
"Our Soldiers really enjoyed the challenge of getting back to basic Soldiering for an extended mission," said Fontanez. "We have skipped home station training for more time in the field and it is working. Training like this is so beneficial for us as a unit and as a combined force."
Fontanez believes the rules of the game are changing and the U.S. military is adjusting to the requirements of the operational and domestic environments.
"This AT is the start of a significant change in our culture as a professional force," he added.
Maj. Gen. James K. Brown, deputy commanding general, Army National Guard, FORSCOM paid a visit to the MEB during training in Greenville, June 19. From touring a decontamination site with chemical Soldiers and breach operations with engineers to base security with MPs, the MEB's leadership showcased their Soldiers' abilities to Brown, along with Kentucky's adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Stephen Hogan. Brown said he was impressed with the "snapshot" of the MEB he witnessed at WHFRTC.
"I saw professional Soldiers from Kentucky training in the field, doing what great Soldiers are supposed to be doing," said Brown.
FORSCOM's mission is to train and prepare combat-ready, globally responsive forces in order to build and sustain readiness to meet combatant command requirements. Brown said the MEB's training is precisely what is needed to support the Army and Federal mission as well as the state mission. The ARNG 4.0 concept aims to increase standards across the Army National Guard.
"ARNG 4.0 is a place we are as a Guard, where we are across the nation and where we've evolved as an operational reserve for the U.S. Army. (ARNG) 4.0 is exactly what I saw today, Soldiers training to the standard, standards that the Army has set for us and being as ready as we possibly can be within the available time."
"That's what I see in (ARNG) 4.0. And from what I saw today, they're doing a great job."
With approval from FORSCOM and approval from Soldiers in the field, the 149th MEB now looks to sustain such success and share the lessons learned with other commands in Kentucky. ARNG 4.0 is called a "paradigm shift in how we train, equip, and allocate personnel to prepare for the future." The 149th is satisfied with their first significant training adjustment.
"Col. Stewart's end state was the three T's -- Trained, Tired, and Toughened. And I'm pretty confident we achieved each," said Richmond.