Since July 2019, the 11th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade, Army Reserve Aviation Command, planned and coordinated for its participation in Northern Strike 2020, a large-scale training exercise hosted by the Michigan National Guard on Camp Grayling.
Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus outbreak, the brigade curtailed this year's participation to mitigate the risks posed by the COVID-19 environment to keep its Soldiers and families healthy and safe.
In lieu of Northern Strike, the 11th ECAB's Headquarters and Headquarters Company organized and executed Operation Crossbow, a home-station command post-exercise at the Mission Training Complex here on Aug. 1-15, to increase collective proficiency of the warfighting functions and to prepare the staff for the upcoming warfighter exercise.
According to Maj. J. Brian Halsell, the 11th ECAB operations officer, after pivoting from Northern Strike to the CPX, time became the driving factor behind the mission's success.
"The training objectives changed slightly, but the overall goal of training the staff remained the same," he said. "And, although we did not have the desired down trace units to exercise mission command and control, we did learn a lot about where we stand as a fully functioning staff and the shortfalls in our capabilities."
As a U.S. Army Reserve organization, the CPX brought together over 90 Troop Program Unit and Active Guard Reserve Soldiers from the immediate area, all of which provided critical skills to support and carry out the mission.
The 15-day exercise was broken down into three phases. Phase one consisted of individual section training, as well as equipment and vehicle staging. Phase two included a Communications Exercise and Mission Command Training, and phase three was the execution of the CPX.
Throughout each phase, everyone, from section leaders, to the most junior Soldiers, gained valuable insight on how to interact as a critical staff member effectively.
Master Sgt. John Follett, brigade personnel noncommissioned officer in charge, said for some, this was the first time to experience operations in an entirely tactical environment.
"It's a different world than what they're used to," he said. "And Crossbow allowed us to get them outside of their comfort zone by introducing them to new roles and responsibilities, as well as mission-essential tasks and battle drills."
The 11th ECAB will continue to prepare for Warfighter 21-2 by conducting Mission Command Training and a third CPX with the 28th Infantry Division, who will also be the brigade's higher headquarters during the warfighter exercise.
The CPX concluded with Col. Roger F. Deon, Jr., commander of the 11th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade, praising the staff for their impeccable support and success of the mission.
"I want to thank you all for what you have done and the impact you made," he said. "As you know, I have less than a month [in command], but I will be watching. And I'll be proud to say 'that's the 11th, and I know what they can do, and I know what they can achieve. Do not doubt that team.'"