By Sgt. 1st Class Rob Frazier, 177th Armored Brigade Public AffairsJuly 26, 2018
Camp Shelby, Mississippi -- Readiness remains the Army's top priority, and over the past few weeks, there has been perhaps no better reflection of this statement than eXportable Combat Training Capability 18-03.
The three-week National Guard-based training focused on preparing the 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team for next year's Joint Readiness Training Exercise and brought together all 177th Armored Brigade battalions to provide observer coach/trainer support -- including all five Army Reserve units.
This is the first time all Reserve Component units have been together since last year at Fort Hood, Texas.
All five of the Reserve battalions operate under the operational control of First Army; however, the units assigned to Camp Shelby; Camp Blanding, Florida; Orlando, Florida and Fort Buchannan, Puerto Rico, fall under the 85th Support Command.
During XCTC 18-03, Brig. Gen. Kris Belanger, commanding general, 85th SPT CMD made her initial visit to Camp Shelby to see Reserve battalions and observe their impact as part of XCTC 18-03.
I wanted to see what the 85th is doing to support training as it relates to First Army and the level of engagement of the 85th as it relates to this exercise," said Belanger.
As part of her visit to the Pine Belt, Belanger met with leadership from the First Army Academy. The academy certifies all OC/Ts through a doctrinally-based, standardized training program which validates all Soldiers assigned to First Army prior to supporting their unit's training mission requirements such as XCTC.
Constraints due to distance and time availability for RC Soldiers can be challenging; however, First Army Academy Commandant Command Sgt. Maj. Roberto Alvarez said it's crucial that the academy ensures all RC Soldiers are equipped with the knowledge and skills to meet the requirements of serving as OC/Ts.
"The Reserve certification is important," said Alvarez. "It is vital that we arm ourselves with the best training possible."
Belanger also spent quite a bit of time in the field where two of her battalions, 3rd Battalion, 347th Regiment and 2nd Battalion, 348th Regiment, were the primary OC/T leads with two battalions from the Louisiana National Guard's "Tiger" Bde. She said this fact demonstrated how much confidence the "Spearhead" Bde. has in the RC units.
"I was really impressed to see them take the lead on lanes," added Belanger. "I was very impressed with their ability to plan, prepare and execute."
One lane in particular stood out to Belanger as she observed the 2nd Bn., 348th "Cobras", based out of Puerto Rico.
"I was very happy to see their level of engagement," added Belanger, who witnessed OC/T leaders operate step-for-step with their partners, openly communicate and provide effective doctrinal feedback. "The Cobra hot wash exceeded my expectations."
A hot wash is a group After Action Review which encourages feedback from the training partners after each lane. Through this process, the OC/T elicits feedback from Soldiers based on their observations and uses those comments to help guide them in follow-on decision-making processes which enhance team effectiveness and overall unit readiness.
The Soldiers from Puerto Rico have endured a lot of challenges this year," added Belanger. "They've answered the call during the hurricane relief effort, mobilized 20 personnel to Fort Hood and then supported XCTC. "To see their level of commitment and execution has been prenominal."
Belanger added that she has tremendous respect for Soldiers who serve in the National Guard and Army Reserve because they understand the importance of finding balance and find success.
They have to balance the triad effect: personal life, civilian careers and the military," stated Belanger. "Their ability to be resilient through all aspects of their lives and contribute immeasurably is invaluable."
"Watching this come together is really an excellent force generation tool to promote Total Army no matter where we are."