FORT MCCOY, Wis. – “I became an observer coach trainer because of the responsibilities you have as an OC/T,” said Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Ian Fairweather, Observer Coach Trainer, 1-338th Training Support Battalion, 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command. “I really like meeting with units, seeing how they perform and being a coach to help them train and get better.”
Fairweather was about to finish his four-year active-duty contract as an infantry soldier when an Army career counselor talked to him about continuing his career in the Army Reserve. One option was to become an OC/T with the 1-338th TSBN who shares in a multi-component partnership with First Army's 181 Multi-Functional Training Brigade at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.
“An observer coach/trainer observes units going through their training and then performs periodic After Action Reviews that compare how they perform tasks against the training doctrine,” said Fairweather.
These Soldiers attend the First Army Academy at Camp Shelby, Mississippi to become OC/Ts. The course teaches students how to evaluate and give feedback, particularly leading and structuring AARs. It also teaches students how to help units self-discover and give themselves feedback, said Fairweather. OC/Ts are assets to units’ readiness because they ensure soldiers are current on their tasks.
“We not only evaluate Soldiers on specific tasks, but we also provide them with additional experiences in tandem with those key training tasks,” said Fairweather.
Fairweather goal is to improve unit readiness as an OC/T by giving commanders feedback which improves their units’ training.
“OC/T feedback provides an outside look that gives commanders different ways of doing things, like structuring their training,” said Fairweather. “The end goal is to make sure units are ready to deploy, but even if they’re not deploying, OC/Ts provide coaching that units can take to their home stations.”
Fairweather shared that the skills he acquired as the project manager for a geospatial services company made him a better OC/T.
“Being a project manager, I have to deal with not only a lot of different people, but a lot of specific projects with very specific requirements,” said Fairweather. “I think that translates well into being an observer/coach because OC/Ts have to be able to observe and assess a lot of different things all at once.”
For Fairweather, he shared that working as an OC/T has also improved his civilian career.
“It gives you a lot of experience providing not just feedback, but valuable feedback. So, you’re not just giving your opinion, but constructive feedback on what you observe,” said Fairweather.
Army Reserve Sgt. First Class John Miller, Military Police Instructor,1-338th TSBN, has known Fairweather for more than three years. He praised Fairweather’s ability to multitask during the Coronavirus pandemic.
“He was in charge of making sure individuals were going to their appointments and ranges, training and doing the AARs,” said Miller. “Fairweather has no issue standing in front of an audience made up of officers, senior noncommissioned officers, and junior soldiers. He’s able to talk to every single one of them. He was able to still handle everything, like being on time, turning in his paperwork, briefing and going out to the ranges.”
Miller said Fairweather encourages unit readiness by focusing on Soldiers’ safety.
“He makes sure units are checking on their Soldiers and that units have all their equipment and water,” said Miller. “Also, if he sees an individual having medical issues, like how people contracted COVID during our unit’s last annual training, he tracks down leadership to get them to take their Soldiers to the hospital.”
Lastly, Miller praised Fairweather’s interpersonal skills.
“He is extremely personable with soldiers, senior NCOs and officers,” said Miller. “Anyone can walk up and talk to him, and he will give you anywhere from one minute to three hours to talk. He brings great listening skills and a ton of knowledge from his military experience and former duty stations to his OC/T job. When he walks in a room and starts talking, everybody says, ‘we’re going to stop and listen to what he has to say.’”