CAMP SHELBY, Mississippi -- Nestled deep in the Desoto National Forest, U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Ritchie, an observer coach/trainer with 3rd Battalion, 315th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 177th Armored Brigade, stares at the open field prior to the start of the training mission, July 23."Today they are providing counter mobility operations and mobility operations to infantry platoons breeching wire," said Ritchie.Ritchie, a bridge crew member, is one of hundreds of First Army OC/Ts supporting Exportable Combat Training Exercise 18-03 with the Louisiana Amy National Guard's 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. Over the past week, he has been working closely with the engineers of 1st Platoon, Company B, 769th Engineer Battalion."Over the past week they came out, and right off the bat, they adapted to the weather," added the Overland, Ohio, native.The scorching temperatures, humidity, and rain have all served as realistic adversaries to the Tiger Brigade, but Ritchie projects this team is well on its way to meeting the Objective T goal, a designation used by the Army to measure and validate readiness.A brief silence is broken by the sound of suppressive fire by infantrymen to the engineers' left and right. Following the training plan, once the riflemen have suppressed the enemy, the engineers will be ready to move forward to conduct their inspection of the area and emplace a Bangalore torpedo to clear the obstacle for the infantry to have freedom of maneuver."We get great guidance from [Ritchie]," said Sgt. Joshua Pilant, a combat engineer with 256th IBCT, who served as a safety on the range. "He's Johnny on the spot, and he's there for us."While the primary goal for XCTC 18-03 is to ensure Army readiness for the Tiger Brigade and prepare them for next year's Joint Readiness Center Training exercise at Fort Polk, La., the Spearhead Brigade understands training also provides key moments to build stronger partnerships."There isn't anything more important as an OC/T than partnership," said Ritchie. "If you don't have a good relationship with your partner, you're not going to get your mission accomplished."When the firing halts, the engineers get the go ahead to advance forward. Ritchie moves with them, scanning the area to observe the platoon's movement and actions as he recalls key takeaways he expects from the team."The primary things I'm looking for with this lane are troop leading procedures, safety when handling demo, timing the demo correctly and integration in with maneuver units," added Ritchie.Once the platoon arrives at the designated area, the platoon sergeant places his Soldiers strategically into fighting positions to provide cover as he and the other members prepare the Bangalore torpedo."The infantry brings the bulk of the fighting force to the battlefield, but as far as mobility, they can only do so much," added Ritchie. "This is where the engineers come in and get the forces through…anything."Ritchie maneuvers around and carefully watches the Soldiers. He provides a few coaching words of encouragement, to reaffirm his confidence in the team. Once the torpedo is placed in the correct position, he leans down to give it one final check and motions to the platoon sergeant that they are cleared to move to a safe distance to detonate the explosive.As they arrive to the top of the hill to watch, other Soldiers from the Tiger Brigade gather behind them. Three successive calls of "fire in the hole" result on detonation and a cheer from the Soldiers.Training lane complete."This is a confidence boost [for them] right now, and it's vital to readiness," said Ritchie. "Camp Shelby has similar terrain and weather, and overall, how they are training now will be a good mission set for JRTC and provide them with a better understanding of what they will need to do next year."