HOHENFELS, Germany - The Idaho Army National Guard sent four Soldiers to Hohenfels, Germany, Aug. 4 to 25 as part of a multi-institutional mobile training team tasked to train and qualify active Army Soldiers located throughout the European theater in vehicle recovery operations.

The team, which also consisted of four instructors from the California and Hawaii Army National Guard Regional Training Site-Maintenance Ordnance Training companies, mobilized in response to a shortage of qualified vehicle recovery operators within U.S. Army Europe.

"The Guard is trying to help cover down on U.S. Army Europe because right now they have no other means for getting that support," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Terry Gulick, Idaho Ordnance Training Battalion commandant. "They are constantly maneuvering in theater which creates a significant problem with the shortage of recovery specialists to effectively operate the assigned recovery equipment."

During the mission, the team successfully graduated 40 active Army Soldiers from both a wheeled vehicle recovery course and a tracked vehicle recovery course, thus strengthening the combat effectiveness of U.S. Army Europe.

"The ability for the Army to recover battle damaged or broken equipment from the field of battle and return it to an area where the damage can be assessed and repaired is crucial to our war fighting capabilities," said Sergeant 1st Class Dustin Huerta, Idaho Ordnance Training Battalion instructor.

Soldiers who conduct vehicle recovery operations, typically those with a military occupational specialty of 91 series field maintenance mechanic, are required to have an H8 Recovery Specialist additional skill identifier. However, since the H8 ASI is not earned during advanced individual training, Soldiers often get deployed or stationed overseas without it.

"We approximated that U.S. Army Europe has an annual shortfall of 50 untrained vehicle recovery operators," said Gulick. "Idaho has trained all 50 this year between April and August, exceeding what they required for the year."

In April the Idaho Army National Guard also sent a team of instructors to Grafenwoehr, Germany, where they taught recovery classes and laid a course foundation for other RTS-Ms that are expected to teach the courses next year.

There are 13 RTS-Ms within the Army National Guard. With their continued support, Gulick says the active Army will save time and money by not having to send Soldiers overseas to vehicle recovery courses stateside.

It costs the Army approximately $11,000 per Soldier to send them from Europe to Fort Lee, Virginia, where the course is normally held, rather, it costs approximately $16,000 per course to bring instructors to Europe, said Gulick.

In addition, the Army National Guard units are able to train more Soldiers at once than the U.S. Army Europe would see sending a few Soldiers at a time to Fort Lee.

"This mission not only successfully trained 50 Soldiers but also displayed the capabilities of the Idaho National Guard's training institution," said Huerta. "Additionally this mission presented us with the opportunity to foster a relationship with our counterparts who live and work in the European theater."

When they are not traveling abroad, the Idaho Army National Guard's RTS-M offers approximately eight tracked and wheeled vehicle recovery courses annually at Gowen Field, in addition to other maintenance courses. There, instructors have the latest equipment and dedicated training areas to accomplish realistic recovery training.

The wheeled and tracked vehicle recovery courses, which are 16 and 17 days respectfully, train Soldiers to understand all aspects of recovery operations, including maintenance of recovery equipment such as the M88 Full-Tracked Recovery Vehicles or the M984 HEMTT Wrecker.

"The first cornerstone Soldiers learn is proper preventative maintenance checks and services," said Huerta. "If they cannot maintain their own equipment than they will never be able to go out and reliable recover other people's equipment."

To earn the H8 ASI, Soldiers must demonstrate their ability to utilize recovery methods and techniques such as extracting, towing, lifting, winching, rigging and hoisting of equipment in various stages of inoperability, to include vehicles that are stuck in the mud, have no wheels or tracks or have been overturned.

"However, there is so much more to it than just that," said Gulick. "There are many considerations Soldiers must account for when recovering vehicles, which makes it a challenging yet rewarding course."