By Sgt. David LietzAugust 15, 2019
CAMP SHELBY, Miss. - Infantry Soldiers, assigned to the Florida National Guard, kneel in tall grass under the Friday night sky during eXportable Combat Training Capability 19-05. They stand by quietly waiting to move out during a phase of area security mission one into the mock city of Al Jaffa. Once ready, the Soldiers move towards their objective and carry out sensitive site exploitation, based on available intelligence information, and capture a high value target.
Brig. Gen. Kris A. Belanger, Commanding General, 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command, watched the action of the Soldiers and her observer coach/trainers unfold through her night vision goggles at Camp Shelby, Mississippi.
"This is a brigade-sized element," said Belanger. "It's probably one of the best displays of total force integration that I've seen in the 85th (U.S. Army Reserve) Support Command. You see the collective training effort coming together to produce the best training possible. You have the Florida National Guard, Army Reserve and active (Army) component all working together. You have evaluations and execution. That's pretty cool."
"Area security is a mission essential task for this battalion," explained Capt. Steve Russell, OC/T, Georgia National Guard. "Tonight they will do their SSE and find some actual intelligence."
"We use a crawl, walk, run training philosophy where the scenario and variables get more complex," he added. "The Soldiers leave here with an evaluation of their skills."
The units going through lane training are tested on their ability to execute combat operations and handle mission variables like Civilians on the Battlefield which are portrayed by actors.
Before the training mission begins, Soldiers, actors and enemy vehicles called VISMODs are moved into staging lanes at the 'Beach'.
"A VISMOD simulates a Russian enemy vehicle," said Armando Yburria, Beach master/scenario chief.
"It gives the Soldiers visual options on the battlefield," said Yburria. "We have battlefield effects, civilians on the battle field. It's a year-long planning process to get to this point."
The Opposition Force is played by Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division.
"The most important thing we are doing is training these Soldiers for deployment," said Sgt. Francisco Rowell, Field Artillery non-commissioned officer with the 82nd Airborne Division. "Hopefully we are making this more challenging for them so their deployment is easy. We want to make (training) hard."
The training lanes at XCTC 19-05 prepared infantry Soldiers for training at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana next year and then further ready them for overseas deployments and stateside mobilizations.
"What I appreciated about the night time training was the opportunity to use our night vision equipment and the tremendous advantage it gave us," said Capt. Jason Schwartz, Company Commander, Charlie Co., 2-124, Ocala, Florida. "We don't get enough opportunity to train in urban environments. I really enjoyed the opportunity to place machine gun teams and entry control points."
Nearly forty-five hundred Soldiers are supporting this year's exercise.
"The 85th (USARSC) is providing four battalions," said Lt. Col. Chad Smith, officer-in-charge from the 177th Armored Brigade Support Element.
"The four training support battalions are observer (coach)/trainers. The logistic support battalions are the sustainment support," said Smith.
In addition to the oc/t support to the training audience during training scenarios, sustainment support for the training exercise comes in different forms and continues around the clock.
"We take Soldiers to sick call. We check the air conditioning to make sure it's working and check the latrines to make sure they are functional," said Army Reserve 2nd Lt. Tyree Johnson, Officer-in-Charge, Mayor's Cell, 3-349 LSBN, 85th USARSC. "We have three shifts. There is always a Soldier present in the Mayor's cell. The barracks are checked and cleaned before the Soldiers move in. We also control Red Cross messages that need to be addressed during briefings."
Logistical support includes routine tasks like delivering water to training areas, providing meals and completing vehicle recovery and maintenance of Humvees used by the OC/T teams.
"We deal with vehicles, generators, and night vision goggles to help support the mission," said Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory L. Jackson, Command Sergeant Major, 3-349 LSBN, 85th USARSC.
"They need the LSBN. When the observer (coach)/trainer signs for the vehicle they can step in and go," Jackson said.
If a Humvee breaks down, the Soldiers are ready to go out and recover it.
"When we recover a vehicle, we try not to impede on other training going on," said Sgt. First Class Jarod Lee, S-3, Operations NCOIC. "Our recovery guys also know to be on the alert for Soldiers."
"We can get vehicles in and out very quickly. Most of my Soldiers do the same job in civilian life," Jackson added.
"We have done this three times in the past three years. This year is going very well because we have experienced Soldiers and a great relationship with the brigades," said Maj. Frederic Pallez, Executive Officer, 3-349 LSBN, 85th USARSC. "We have been quite busy doing a lot of vehicle recovery operations mainly due to vehicles overheating."
Keeping the Humvees operational with a heat index of more than 100 degrees is also a critical part of the training mission.
"If the observer (coach)/trainers break down or their communications don't happen then the training breaks down. The training will not go on without the observer (coaches)," explained Lt. Col. James Hernandez, Battalion Commander, 3-349 LSBN, 85th USARSC. "We support the exercises when First Army is involved. Our relationship with First Army is critically important and mutually beneficial. We provide the logistical support and simulated battlefield environments to facilitate uninterrupted training operations."
On Saturday morning, infantry Soldiers assigned to Charlie Company, 2-124 Infantry Battalion, Florida Army National Guard, participated in area security mission 3 under the watchful eyes of Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Uchendu Matthew, OC/T, 85th USARSC.
"OC/Ts do two things. They allow the unit to let them look in the mirror and see their deficiencies. OC/Ts basically point that out," said Matthew.
"We are just doing patrols and verifying," said Spc. Jose Colon, Infantryman, Bravo Company, 2-124 Infantry Battalion, 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Florida National Guard, "We had intelligence that there are weapons and improvised explosive devices (IED)."
Also discussed was the positive aspects of training after the mission was complete.
"Your movement into the town was outstanding," Matthew said.
Matthew, who served in the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps, received an 85th USARSC coin from Belanger following the after action review on the lanes training. Next year's training mission, XCTC 20-03, will be held during summer and include Soldiers from the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team of the Mississippi National Guard.