By Staff Sgt. Leticia Samuels, North Carolina National GuardJuly 15, 2019
FORT IRWIN, Calif. -- Dusty sand blows through the mountains of the Mojave Desert as Soldiers work together as one heartbeat to defeat the Opposing Force (OPFOR) during rotation 19-09 at the National Training Center, at Fort Irwin California, June 27 - July 20.
The 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team (30th ABCT) or "Old Hickory's" mission focuses on combined arms maneuver and collective gunnery as they move through various scenarios established and implemented by the active-duty staff stationed at Fort Irwin.
"We design a rotation based on that individual unit's training objectives and where they may be heading next," said Army Col. Carl Michaud, the deputy commander of the NTC. "The National Training Center designs this as a brigade collective event; all the elements of a brigade, the three maneuver battalions, the cavalry squadron, the aviation detachment, the engineers and artillery all working together in a collective environment to achieve the brigade's mission."
Michaud continued to discuss the various real-world threats incorporated in the training to include a cyber threat, an integrated air-defense threat, how social media can affect the operational environment and engaging a physical enemy requiring strategic maneuvering.
"Old Hickory" acts as the fighting element that strategically engages and pursues the OPFOR. The 630th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion (630th CSSB) supports the 30th ABCT by providing transportation of commodities such as food, water, ammunition, equipment, and mechanical parts even at the risk of encountering simulated Improvised Explosive Devices, direct and indirect fire from the enemy and mortar attacks.
In addition to the 630th CSSB providing the main support commodities, the 236th Brigade Engineer Battalion (236th BEB) provides combat, general, and geospatial engineering capabilities by utilizing organic engineers, military intelligence, signal, chemical biological radiological and nuclear personnel to the 30th ABCT. An additional 600 soldiers not organic to the BEB include an explosive ordinance disposal unit, a military police company and a recon company from the Moldovan army.
"Our role in this situation is to help manage and plan for the enablers," said Maj. Roland Lamb, the assistant operations officer assigned to the 236th BEB. "This is really important because being in a National Guard unit we do go to the field but not to this scale. This brings complexity to the situation. Working through the things we have planned and putting them into action, [allows] you to see things that you didn't see when you were planning them on paper. It's good to work through that."
A critical part of units rotating through the NTC is the observer controllers (OC). The OC's provide vital feedback to units involving performance; identifying possible issues and advising them on multiple avenues to increase readiness.
"We observe, control and train," said Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Lake, the senior maneuver support training command sergeant major assigned at NTC. "We are looking at the organization from the outside. We advise them and assist them to make the organization better and also meet their training objectives."
The NTC training area contains an uncluttered electromagnetic spectrum and sprawls over 1,000 miles to facilitate large-scale maneuvering for Abrams tanks and other heavy wheeled and light mechanized vehicles, and it possesses restricted airspace for aviation assets. This recipe cooks up the ideal site for the largest Army training exercises across the United States.
"We are key to the success of the overall Army for the long-term," said Lake. "We bring them the best scenarios toward what they would see in a decisive action fight. No one can simulate what we do here at the NTC at home station."
NTC is living up to its reputation as being the location to conduct near real-life combat conditions and scenarios that test a warriors' readiness requiring them to utilizing their military occupational specialty in a high-up-tempo environment.
"We add all of this together in combined arms operations and this brigade [30th Armored Brigade Combat Team] will get a very good training event that will stress them from the brigade commander down to that brand new soldier that just showed up," said Michaud.