Steve Trujillo, a former infantryman, assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, embarked on a pilgrimage back to his first duty station, traveling thousands of miles from his home in Louisiana. Trujillo's motivation to return was sparked by personal reflection and a desire to share and inspire Soldiers to look at the bigger picture. He didn't want Soldiers to miss out on the lessons he learned here at JMRC.
Trujillo returned to Hohenfels in late March. His tour began with a briefing covering some of the new capabilities and activities that his old unit had been working on. He learned of the new partnerships with other countries the 1-4 IN has created over the many years.
"There were no Eastern Bloc Countries that trained here, it was just the French the Spanish and the English that came to train," Trujillo recalled. "We never had the chance, like these guys, to actually work side by side."
The then 21-year-old, Louisiana native, arrived in the winter of '91. It was a transitional period. 1-4 IN had just been assigned to Hohenfels as the Opposing Force. This was new for many Soldiers and the OPFOR was just in its infancy. Like his comrades, Trujillo was not pleased with his particular duty assignment. As an Infantry Soldier he was eager to defend the nation, his interest was in the actual battlefront, not the stage to practice the war.
"We felt like it was punishment being here. We didn't get to go to war, that was the 'big game'," explained Trujillo. "We trained for all this, but it's like not getting to play in the 'big game' on Friday,"
To Trujillo, his tour at Hohenfels felt wasted, but what seemed trivial then, "the advanced field laser tag" -- as he described it -- was the basis of advance strategy and tactics that has made OPFOR what it is today.
"I now know how important OPFOR really was," he reflected. "They screw up here a light goes off, they learn from that mistake, and get to move on. But later on that light might not go off in real life. There were times in training I would think to myself; if this was real life I'd be dead."
Unbeknownst to them at the time Trujillo along with his counterparts were laying down the foundation for today's OPFOR.
"By starting and having our little stumbles and [road] blocks made what OPFOR is today, any screw up we made got fixed for later," he explained.
There were plenty of mistakes made in the beginning, this was the OPFOR was in it crawl stage. Trujillo was oblivious to what he and his fellow Soldiers were accomplishing for future Soldiers. Trujillo saw no value in his assignments.
He described it saying, "It was just another day playing pretend."
When his tour finally came to a close, his leadership asked the young specialist to list his accomplishments for his award before he left.
"I didn't accomplish [anything]," he stated rejecting the award.
Dismayed and unsettled, Trujillo made the decision to leave the active Army. It wasn't until he was home and newly assigned to his U.S. Army Reserve unit that he realized what he actually accomplished here.
Journeying back to Hohenfels to soak in what transpired all those years ago. Trujillo now has an enriched view of Hohenfels. From the newer equipment, to learning about the new global partnerships Trujillo got to see his bigger picture and what his small role transformed into.
"Now when I hear 'World Class OPFOR' I smile because they actually became that," he said smiling.
His visit concluded with a luncheon with young Soldiers assigned to his former unit. He shared some of his experiences at Hohenfels.
He encouraged the young Soldiers by telling them, "You are doing a more valuable job than you ever you expected you would. This means more to everybody else than you think it does."
He realized he was a part of legacy, the building blocks for today's "World Class OPFOR". His journey taught him that everybody has a significant role. It may not seem like it at the time, but it's a small piece of the bigger picture.