By Sgt. Roger HoughtonMay 24, 2019
For two weeks in May, Soldiers from the 2-305th Red Team, 177th Armored Brigade, traveled to Fort Chaffee, AR to assist their partner unit, the 142nd Field Artillery Brigade, Arkansas National Guard, during their Annual Training. From digital communications to rocket firing, there was a Red Team Observer, Coach/Trainer on the ground for just about every aspect of the mission.
When Red Team OC/Ts are tasked with helping a unit, they don't simply show up and begin giving orders. They must introduce themselves to the unit so that everybody understands their role as an OC/T. The goal is to build trust.
"Coming together, building a rapport with them and finding out who they are, and what situations they're going through," said Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Bartleson, a Fires Support OC/T with the 2-305 Red Team. "I would never say it's hard, but it's challenging at first."
"It's rewarding to get to watch them take over and take charge and continue these fire missions safely," said Bartleson. "It's great being able to interact with all different types of people throughout the country."
Each Red Team OC/T has had enough experience in their career field that, when needed, they can give timely and accurate advice, which helps guide unit leaders in the right direction when making changes to procedures.
Cpt. Kevin Roach, a prior M109 Paladin Battery Commander, fits in well as an OC/T for the 142nd Field Artillery Brigade. With his knowledge of artillery operations, he is able to spot deficiencies that he had recognized before within his own unit.
"My previous battalion commander, one of his priorities was maintenance," said Roach. "So I completely understand the maintenance flow in garrison and in the field environment, and how important it is in a Paladin battery."
Roach records detailed notes about what he sees, both good and bad, which are compiled at the end of each day in the form of situation reports, which are given to the unit leadership. Steadily, changes to efficiency and effectiveness begin making a positive difference in unit operations.
"Especially field artillery," said Roach. "That's a repetitive thing that you have to do over and over again to really be good at."
The U.S. Army National Guard shares many commonalities with active duty units in how they train. However, a major difference in the way they operate, Roach said, is the slower frequency of which they can bring their formations together and conduct large training operations.
"They don't get a lot of opportunities to do what we do," said Roach. "You have to go into it with the understanding that they're going to be a little slower."
For many National Guard Soldiers, work, school, and other duties during daily life might impede the time they have to train individually on their MOS-specific skills. However, Red Team OC/Ts ensure that Soldiers are properly certified on their respective systems by holding units to the same standards as the active component.
"There's going to be rust, and you need to knock it off." said Roach.
Some National Guard Soldiers are able to maintain proficiency by choosing civilian careers which closely match their Army profession.
2nd Lt. Devin Henderson is a Fire Directions Officer from the 142nd FAB who also works as a store manager for an auto parts store. He practices leadership in both his civilian life and in the Arkansas National Guard.
"I just look at it as putting two different hats on." Said Henderson. "There, I'm looking at numbers for parts. Here, I'm looking at numbers for rounds."
Despite the similarities, there's nothing quite like firing an M109 Paladin. To help with the transition from citizen to Soldier, there are the Red Team OC/Ts.
"It probably takes a day for them to get into Army mode," said said Staff Sgt. Christopher Grinstead, an artillery OC/T with the 2-305th Red Team.. "Then, they have to see what right looks like and what they have to do to accomplish the mission."
Grinstead emphasized that he doesn't force change within the unit, but focuses on communication.
"I ask artillery questions to them to get them to start thinking outside the box," said Grinstead. "To get them thinking of the broader mission and what exactly they're doing."
"At the end of the day, it's finding issues and knowing how to troubleshoot," said Grinstead. "I like helping guys train soldiers."
The 2-305th Red Team maintains close relationships with field artillery partners, utilizing their OC/Ts to strengthen units and prepare them for deployment. Success for their partner unit is a victory for the OC/Ts of 2-305 Red Team.