CAMP Shelby, Miss. -- A green, up-armored High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) from the 2nd Squadron, 108th Cavalry Regiment, Georgia Army National Guard, crawled through the red Mississippi dirt before stopping just short of the training ground firing line. Looking from atop the vehicle he could see through a pair of binoculars that, right in the middle of the range and from the top of a HMMWV, was a gunner just like himself knocking down targets. But in this training scenario, there was one other element: Sitting among the crew and watching their every decision throughout the entire process was Staff Sgt. Robert G. Taylor, a San Antonio native who is an Observer, Coach/Trainer, or OC/T, from First Army's 177th Armored Brigade.The Soldiers of the 177th Armored Brigade are experts in their craft, which is providing guidance and mentorship to the National Guard and Reserve Soldiers who come to Camp Shelby, Mississippi for scheduled training. The partnerships that Spearhead brigade Soldiers work hard to build allow them to push through challenges and make progress day after day. They accompany Soldiers at all levels of leadership and provide direction where it's needed.On this day, Taylor was serving as the vehicle crew evaluator, or VCE. His job was to watch and listen as individual crews attempted the course. His observations are key to providing feedback on crews' performance. At the end of each iteration of Soldiers going through the gunnery qualifications, he hosted a small but important after-action review to discuss their strengths and shortcomings. He considered the opportunity to train and certify the National Guard to the same Army standard as another way to serve."It's very rewarding, being able to work with the National Guard," said Taylor. "With our experience being on the line, we get to give back to them."Taylor, who was an Indirect Fire Infantryman, served with the 1st Infantry Division for five years, during which he deployed twice to Iraq. He continued his service at Fort Bliss, Texas and Fort Wainwright, Alaska before being stationed at Camp Shelby. He believes his years of service allow him to effectively mentor the soldiers he evaluates."With 11 years in doing the job I've been doing with all the training I have, I feel qualified enough to help these Soldiers progress in their careers," He said.From planning to the trigger-pull and beyond, the synergy brings benefits at all levels.Sgt. Cordell Stewart, a Natchitoches, La., native assigned to 2nd Squadron, 108th Cavalry Regiment, who studies financial analysis at the University of New Orleans, talked about how the Spearhead OC/Ts help bolster his unit's skills to perform better on the battlefield."The OC/Ts are pretty knowledgeable," said Stewart. "They taught us a few tricks that can help us on the next go-around.
He continued to explain how the experience that the OC/Ts bring to the table gives them insight into more effective ways to operate."We do gunnery, land navigation, basic scout knowledge," said Stewart. "Walking through the woods, building a picture for our commander to see exactly what we see."Capt. James Lehman, a Fort Knox, Ky. native, is the Delta Team Chief for the 1st Battalion, 305th Infantry Regiment. Lehman, who has deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, spoke on the importance of OC/Ts who perform their duties to, and above, the standard.Lehman explained that the Citizen-Soldiers of National Guard units such as the 2nd Sqdn, 108th Cav. Regt. must maximize their training on a limited schedule."You have to put as much as you can into the available time you have with them and work to maintain their proficiency," He said.
Squeezed into that small amount of time, Lehman said, is building the bonds of trust that encourage a partnership between the two teams."The trust isn't there at first," Lehman added. "But then after you get to work with them and you start going into your mentorship phase, they realize that you're a tool for them, and that you're there to help them.After the trust is built, the advice given, and the training rounds fired, Lehman said, the best rewards come in small gestures. Through these interactions, he knows he has done his job well."When you get a thank you from the unit, from the unit chain of command, and the individual Soldiers. They appreciate what you've done for them."