By Master Sgt. Matt Meadows, 101st Airborne DivisionJune 18, 2019
FORT DRUM, New York - It has been many years since the U.S. Army faced large-scale conventional combat against a uniformed military. Are our units prepared and capable of defeating such an enemy on a battlefield?
The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) headquarters traveled to Fort Drum, New York, May 20 to June 14, to help its XVIII Airborne Corps sister division, 10th Mountain Division, answer that question.
The "Screaming Eagles" performed the duties and responsibilities of the Corps-level Higher Command (HICOM) for the "Climb to Glory" division and supporting elements, to include Illinois and Texas National Guard units, during their Warfighter Exercise (WFX) 19-05.
A WFX is a culminating staff exercise that involves merging real-world and digital battle scenarios to test and validate Army units in preparation for future missions and deployments. Although the 101st Abn. Div. was in a supporting role, the headquarters still derived great benefits from WFX 19-05.
"We worked out our systems and processes for division staff-level warfighting mission command for large-scale combat operations," said Col. Brandon Teague, 101st Abn. Div. G-3 operations officer in charge.
Teague, a native of Spring, Texas, explained that while performing as HICOM, the division staff learned many things that will help during its own WFX later in 2019. He cited commanders update briefs and the targeting process as examples.
"[That's] something we haven't done for a long time as a division staff -- large scale," said Teague.
Lt. Col. Tyler Oliver, 101st Abn. Div. G9, civil-military operations officer, explained some of the differences and difficulties of HICOM as opposed to division operations.
"When you are working at the HICOM, you are looking at the entire battlefield from 10,000 feet… so you can't focus too directly at any one thing that is going on," said Oliver. "That is what the divisions are doing; and getting that training and experience."
Oliver said a staff has to learn how to work together, and although his family misses him while he's away, this time was very valuable.
"This time spent away from the family is making us a better division," said Oliver. "So it is not really about HICOM, for me, as much as it is about (how) we are just growing as an organization and getting better every day."
Soon, the 101st. Abn. Div. will have to answer the same question concerning their capability to fight a simulated war against a determined, well-fortified and powerful conventional enemy, as they conduct their own WFX in the winter of 2019. Until then, they continue to train and prepare for their next "Rendezvous with Destiny."