FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. – Moving to a new location can be difficult. For the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) Operator New Equipment Training (OPNET) Course, the change of scenery allowed instructors to train Soldiers in a different environment to maintain combat-readiness.
The JLTV instructors launched the first Fort Hunter Liggett (FHL), California JLTV OPNET course, August 9-14, 2020.
“There’s a lot of planning, meeting new people and traveling when serving as the lead for a course,” said Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Severson, a Mauston, Wisconsin native, who took the reins as the primary instructor for the OPNET course and coordinated several aspects for the new course.
“Making sure the class and driving courses run smoothly and knowing how to handle any unexpected problems or events that pop up are the biggest challenges serving in this role,” he added.
Months in the making, the OPNET course was made possible through hard-work and coordination from Soldiers assigned to the initial JLTV Training Center located in Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, which falls under the 3rd Brigade (Ordnance), 94th (TD-FS), and working closely with the FHL directorates of Plans, Training Mobilization and Security and Public Works.
“It is hard bringing the needed materials to FHL, setting up the classrooms, picking up all of the equipment and supplies needed,” said Severson. “All of the support we got at FHL, from the post command, the scheduling and billeting team, and the Equipment Concentration Site was great.”
While Severson served in the main instructor role, he worked with a team of other highly-qualified instructors from the JLTV Training Center to launch the course at the FHL new location.
“I love being the first wave of instructors,” said Staff Sgt. Raymond Brand, an instructor for the OPNET course who is assigned to the 13th-100th Ordnance Battalion, 3rd BDE, 94th TD-FS. “To know the whole United States Army is looking to us for this training is awesome, and knowing the rest of the Army is going to emulate what we put together is a great feeling.”
The initial fielding of this military vehicle started last year, and the 94th TD-FS continues to lead the JLTV driver’s training courses for all Army’s components.
“We get students that are privates who have been in the Army less than a year to the first sergeants that are on the way out of the military,” he added. “Everyone is so eager to learn, excited to be part of this program, and get the training.”
The week-long course covered a variety of vehicle fundamentals such as starting and stopping the vehicle, approaching and changing lanes, merging and exiting on an expressway, and driving on various terrain.
“We are setting up the training for this program to continue for a very long time,” Brand added. “The changes we suggest, hopefully get taken to heart to provide the best training possible for future Soldiers.”
There are two different types of the JLTV, a four-seat and the two-seat design meant to provide the occupants with significantly more protection against mine-resistance and ambush protection. Additionally, the JLTV is approximately two-thirds lighter than the previously used Humvee, offering greater speed over terrain, and better fuel efficiency.
“Students are used to the Humvee and think they are just going to come here and breeze through the course like the JLTV is just like driving all the old vehicles they have at their unit,” said Brand. “Once they have an understanding of the technology and safety features that was implemented into this vehicle, they realize they are getting great training, but they actually have to work at it.”
For Spc. Nicole Hathcock, an Army Reserve Soldier assigned to the 415th Civil Affairs Battalion, Kalamazoo, Michigan, is using the OPNET course as another asset in her knowledge toolbox and plans to use what she’s learned to train others in her unit.
“The JLTV is an awesome piece of equipment. It’s surprising how smart and technologically advanced it is,” Hathcock said. “I look forward to being licensed to drive once we receive our JLTVs at my unit and training fellow Soldiers.”
While the course focuses on showing Soldiers how to maneuver the JLTV, the knowledge and expertise that instructors like Severson and Brand bring to the course makes the difference in students successfully meeting course and mission readiness standards.