HARRISBURG, Pa. – Leaders of the 28th Infantry Division used Pennsylvania Army National Guard subject matter experts to help ensure the division’s 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team maximized its National Training Center rotation in California in June and July.
The senior trainer team monitored the brigade’s progress at Fort Irwin and carried back to Pennsylvania lessons learned in sending troops and equipment to the Mojave Desert.
Brig. Gen. Michael Wegscheider, 28 ID’s deputy division commander-maneuver, led the team as the senior trainer. The 24-Soldier group included specialists in planning, operations and logistics who provided situational awareness to Wegscheider on brigade actions.
“Primarily, we assisted the brigade in meeting its training objectives. We also had a goal of determining the level of state support required by the unit being trained,” Wegscheider said. “This rotation was a good opportunity for us to create a blueprint for an effective senior trainer team. This could be a model for other states to follow.
“As a senior trainer team, we are crucial to the reporting chain,” Wegscheider added of the STT’s role in linking the unit being trained to support back in Pennsylvania.
The STT did not grade or direct the 56SBCT’s actions during the three-week fictitious scenario-based force-on-force rotation. Instead, team members monitored training while being ready to offer support.
Those staffing the STT included Soldiers from the division’s headquarters battalion and Fort Indiantown Gap Army National Guard Training Center Garrison Headquarters; Fort Indiantown Gap’s 3rd Battalion (NCOA), 166th Regiment; Recruiting and Retention Battalion; 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade; 213th Regional Support Group; and Pennsylvania Joint Force Headquarters.
“Very few of us are actually from the division,” said Lt. Col. Andrew O’Connor, who served as the STT’s operations officer and is director for plans, operations, training and security at Fort Indiantown Gap. “Having people here from various units shows an all-state approach to supporting the unit in the training rotation.”
Leaders from several state- and division-level National Guard commands met with the STT over three weeks to glean insights into the STT’s function as the brigade rehearsed in an assembly area for several days, then moved into the NTC training corridor.
Lt. Gen. Jon Jensen, Army National Guard director, said the commander taking a brigade into an NTC rotation should understand a senior trainer team’s role. STT members discuss courses of action with brigade and battalion staff but do so without undermining the training center’s intent for leaders at all levels to take initiative and learn from the coaching of NTC’s observer-controller-trainers.
“It takes the whole team to get the brigade to success. Your job is to take as much as you can out of that brigade commander’s inbox,” Jensen told the STT members. “The shared experience this brigade has here is what it will reference back to until its next shared experience or deployment.”
The 28 ID’s trainer team included a First Army senior Army adviser to the Army National Guard who advised team members about battlefield circulation opportunities and where and when to observe elements of the 56SBCT as they moved on objectives in the corridor.
“The SRAAG’s involvement in the senior trainer team has been a great benefit,” Wegscheider said.
Wegscheider said the 28 ID team was the right size for the mission. In theory, a senior trainer team could be as small as a senior trainer and a driver or as large as a fully staffed division tactical operations center.
“We tried to come up with a right-sized team and a judicious use of our funding. We couldn’t have done this with a six-person team,” Wegscheider said. “Many of the team members were not from within the division headquarters battalion due to HHBN’s annual training overlapping the 56th’s rotation and including a separate command post exercise back in Pennsylvania.”