FORT BLISS, TEXAS- Army Reserve Observer Coach/Trainers, currently mobilized to First Army’s 5th Armored Brigade, provided a unique training exercise for Tennessee National Guard Soldiers preparing for an upcoming deployment.
“It’s not your traditional range. It’s a collective unit exercise,” explained Capt. Armand Kalugdan, Officer in Charge, Kilo team, 3-360th Training Support Battalion, Salt Lake City, Utah, which falls under the 85th United States Army Reserve Support Command based in Arlington Heights, Illinois.
The 85th USARSC’s 45 battalions dispersed across 25 states, provide capable and ready Army Reserve OC/Ts that possess the capabilities to partner with and train Army leaders in focused areas of leadership, training, equipping and unit manning in order to support First Army’s mission to successfully deploy units to win on the battlefield.
“To my knowledge, this was a concept that hasn’t been done before in this way. The training concept is a base defense live fire,” said Kalugdan. “It has never been done before in the detail we have, fully integrating communications with the base defense operations cell (BDOC), fixed positions which simulate towers and movement of the quick reaction force (QRF).”
The three-day exercise focused on communication skills and M240 machine gun teams firing at moving targets during day and night operations.
During the live fire, Soldiers corrected weapon malfunctions, reloaded ammunition and changed gun barrels.
“Typically about every one thousand rounds they do a barrel change,” explained Staff Sgt. Shawn Lehman, Range Safety Officer, 3-360th Training Support Battalion.
Soldiers watched the targets and monitored them as they came closer to their position.
“The Soldiers will be evaluated on communication skills and their ability to communicate and coordinate the appropriate response to the attackers,” explained Maj. Stefan Ralph, Military Police Team Chief, 3-360th Training Support Battalion. “Units rely more on effective communication. You don’t effectively shoot and move without communication. In my experience communication is the most important.”
The 268th Military Police Company, based in Millington, Tennessee is comprised of young, dedicated Soldiers who maintained their resiliency throughout several mission changes and fully embodied the spirit of the volunteer state of Tennessee.
“I think the Soldiers are ready,” explained 1st Lt. Timothy Sanders, Company Commander, 268th Military Police Company. “A week ago we found out we are going to a different location. The Soldiers took it in stride. They are very resilient.”
“This upcoming mission is very unique. Every single Soldier going on this mission volunteered for it. They want to be here. They are excited,” said 1st Sgt. R.J. Phelps, 268th Military Police Company. “We are the first members of the Tennessee National Guard to do this mission. We accelerated the training and are already validated 100 percent across the board.”
Spc. Mahala Perry, 31 Bravo Military Police, was assigned to the 251st Military Police Company, but volunteered to go on her first deployment to support the 268th Military Police Company.
“This is my direct sister unit and I want to give them the support that they need,” she said. “We’ve had four months of preparation for the deployment. The training that we’ve had so far will help us out in the end. We’ve had some really good training.”
Soldiers, like Staff Sgt. James Frazier, 68 Whiskey combat medic, brings years of deployment experience to the mission.
“This exercise is absolutely valuable,” said Frazier, who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. “To do the dry fire and the live fire is an invaluable exercise. It’s the communication aspect of this exercise which is most valuable. It makes me proud to serve with these Soldiers. They are so eager to serve their country and their state. It’s amazing.”
The OC/Ts leading the training are experienced military police Soldiers who have all deployed at least one time.
“We have combat experience in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have Soldiers who have deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait,” explained Master Sgt. Michael Naylor, non-commissioned officer in charge, military police observer controller training team. “We have been where we are sending our Soldiers.”
Lt. Col. Raymond Love, Commander, 3-360th Training Support Battalion reflected on the exercise and the role his team played preparing the Soldiers for deployment.
“Of all the missions that we have OC/T’d, this is the one that is paramount and that we get correct,” said Love. “Our observer coach/trainers have taken it extra personally to prepare these Soldiers for deployment. This culminating exercise is basically the 18 month long culmination of partnerships between trainers here, the trainers in First Army and the combatant command that will receive these fine Soldiers.”