FORT HOOD, Texas – Regardless of active duty or reserve, Soldiers continuously prepare for war, year-round, whether training on their mission essential tasks, basic Soldiering skills or maintaining their medical and administrative data.
Once Soldiers bid farewell to their families and loved ones, to begin an overseas deployment, they make one stop to a mobilization force generating installation, such as Fort Hood, to process and ensure the readiness of forces, ahead of their deployment.
First Army’s 120th Infantry Brigade, headquartered at Fort Hood, Texas, has the mission to train, coach and ready Army units deploying overseas. They additionally receive units and return them home when forces demobilize from theater back to the United States. Two-thirds of the 120th Infantry Brigade’s active duty formation is comprised of reserve forces. Many of those Soldiers, in this multi-component partnership, are from the 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command, headquartered outside of Chicago.
“Specifically to the relationship between First Army brigades and the 85th Support Command, we could not do (this mission) without them,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Eric Olsen, command sergeant major of the 120th Infantry Brigade. “That relationship is so critical. Whether they are doing their primary mission of (observer coach/training) reserve units or running ‘behind the scenes’ operations at North Fort Hood.”
Army Reserve battalions, assigned to the 85th Support Command, continuously mobilize in support of First Army’s brigade missions at Fort Hood and Fort Bliss, Texas to ready and deploy forces. Command Sgt. Maj. Steven Slee, the newly assigned command sergeant major for the 85th Support Command, visited Fort Hood during the week of October 19, 2021 to understand the mission of the mobilized battalions’, to meet the Soldiers and just see how Soldiers were doing.
During his visit, Slee met with Soldiers from his units assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 337th Regiment; 3rd Battalion, 312th Regiment; and the 2nd Battalion, 381st Regiment, all currently mobilized to the 120th Infantry Brigade.
“I was able to observe 85th (Support Command) Soldiers that were working with deploying units during the weapons qualification, as well as hear from the perspective of one of the deploying units during their validation process,” said Slee. “The training went well in how it was scheduled and planned. Soldiers were prepared to deliver training, highly motivated and enjoyed the job that they were doing.”
The 2-337th, labeled as the “Green Team”, are responsible for training support at individual weapons qualifications ranges to include the M2 .50 caliber machine gun, M9 pistol, M4 5.56mm carbine, MK 19 grenade launcher, M240 machine gun, M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, M203 40mm grenade launcher and the new M17 pistol, while following the new weapons qualification standards.
Additionally, they provided driver’s training for the high mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicle (HMMWV). The HMMWV Egress Assistant Trainer (HEAT) assists Soldiers in how to survive in the event that their vehicle rolls over while they are still in it. For larger vehicles, such as the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP), Soldiers conducted training in the MRAP Egress Trainer (MET). The deploying units also received cultural awareness and language training for the country where they will deploy.
“It’s been going pretty good. Every unit that comes through here has different challenges but we are there to assist them in any way possible to reach their end state of validating, get out the door and conduct their follow-on mission,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Gilbert Garrett, command sergeant major for the 2-337th.
Garrett further elaborated on the value of Army Reserve Soldiers in that, while mobilized, they each bring unique capabilities from their civilian careers to enhance their military roles.
“When we were tasked with this mission, we looked at the capabilities of not only what they have as Soldiers, but also what they bring in their civilian roles,” said Garrett. “We utilized talent management to put the right people in the right positions for our mission. We got lucky in how well it turned out and were blessed with the capabilities that my Soldiers brought to the table with their skill and knowledge that matched with what we do here.”
The mission of the 2-381st was to manage the Mobilization and Demobilization Operations Center (MDOC), tracking all mobilizing reserve units through North Fort Hood for validations, and supporting unit/Soldier needs and sustainment.
“The active component does not have the ability to support (all reserve and guard personnel) in this area, so we bring a lot to the fight in tracking all the mobilizing and demobilizing Soldiers through North Fort Hood,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Steven Gardin, command sergeant major for the 2-381st. “The information we gather and track is pushed all the way up so there are good numbers on Soldiers returning home and what trends look like.”
The 3-312th managed the Demobilization and Transition Operations Cell (DTOC) and focused on the demobilization process for all Soldiers coming through North Fort Hood.
“We receive the Soldiers at the airport and arrange for each stage that they need to pass through Fort Hood, in order to get home,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Lopez, command sergeant major for the 3-312th.
Lopez explained that it works well that reserve units have the mission of receiving reserve forces from theater and returning them home properly, because reserve Soldiers better understand the differences in a reserve Soldier’s demobilization versus an active component Soldier. A key example that he referenced was the congress-mandated portion of the demobilization process called Soldier for Life-Transition Assistance Program (SFL-TAP). The military established the program that ensures demobilizing Soldiers transferring into the civilian sector have an opportunity for jobs.
“This program provides tools for Soldiers coming out of uniform and going back to the civilian sector to look for opportunities for civilian jobs, or for someone like myself that already has (a civilian job) and ensures I am set to return to that job.”
When not mobilized, the 85th Support Command observer coach/ trainers, across the formation, provide training support to reserve and guard forces at collective training events across the continental U.S. In their partnership with First Army for numerous years, their relationship today is viewed as seamless.
“By looking at it, the partnership couldn’t be any better,” said Slee. “I don’t think you would notice the active component mixed in with the reserve component conducting the (reserve) mobilization mission.”