FORT MCCOY, Wis. - Soldiers pulled their vehicles off to the side of the road after completing a lanes training exercise, to conduct an after-action review.
They gathered in a semi-circle around Sgt. 1st Class Steven Masters, Observer Coach/Trainer, 2-361st Training Support Battalion, 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command, based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, who alternated between asking questions, discussing their performance and how to further enhance their skills.
“This is my first time being an OC/T at annual training. You are assisting the leaders and showing them how you can create better Soldiers,” said Masters. “I thoroughly enjoy training Soldiers. As a scenario develops, we help the Soldiers think through a situation that they have never thought about before.”
Masters served two years in the U.S. Navy before he joined the U.S. Army in 2009 bringing 15 years of experience across two service branches.
“I joined the infantry. My family has served in the military for generations. I completed airborne training and served in the 82nd Airborne Division,” said Masters.
He served as a squad leader and jumpmaster and deployed to Haiti and Iraq.
“Then I received orders for recruiting duty and moved to Nebraska,” said Masters.
After leaving active duty in 2017, he joined the U.S. Army Reserve.
“I re-enlisted in the Army Reserve as a combat engineer and was assigned to the 348th Engineer Company based in Kansas City, Missouri,” said Masters. “I knew I wanted to continue to serve and stay until I retired, however, continuing to have to move around wasn’t the best for my family. Switching to the Army Reserve allowed me to continue to serve and still keep my family stable.”
After joining the Army Reserve, Masters deployed to Afghanistan in 2019 and worked on route clearance missions during his time there and returned home in 2020.
“I came to the 2-361st in July 2020 and I’ve been an OC/T ever since,” said Masters.
He’s passionate about his role as an OC/T and believes his civilian job as a patrol officer for the Omaha, Nebraska Police Department complements his Army Reserve job. Especially in one area.
“As a police officer you have to find, in a matter of seconds, an effective way to communicate with someone who is having the worst day of their life. Being able to communicate with people quickly helps me communicate with the Soldiers during the brief time I have with them,” said Masters. “My civilian job helps me figure out how a Soldier needs to receive a message so I can deliver it effectively.”
His fellow Soldier, Maj. Adam Konieska, OC/T team Chief, 2-361st TSBN, believes Masters’ military experience and law enforcement position makes him an effective OC/T.
“He’s got a whole bunch of experience. He has a lot of deployments and civilian experience in law enforcement,” said Konieska. “He’s got the heart of a teacher and he’s guiding the unit towards their own self-discovery. Coaching is an important part of being an OC/T.”
Masters is grateful the Army provided him an opportunity to travel the world and across the United States helping him build a variety of job experiences.
“Everywhere I’ve deployed I had a different mission. I’ve been to three different places with three different jobs. In Haiti, I worked disaster relief. In Iraq, I worked on dismounted infantry missions and in Afghanistan I did route clearance missions for an engineer company,” said Masters.
He continues to serve in the Army Reserve because of a commitment he made a long time ago to make it a career.
“I joined the Army because I wanted to serve. I joined the Army Reserve because it was better for my family,” Masters said.
“I’m a very hands-on teacher. I’m very passionate about making sure the Soldiers know the skills needed for survivability,” said Masters. “Soldiers get wrapped up in their (Military Occupational Specialty) MOS and forget the skills needed to survive in a war time environment.”
Masters further explained that having the skills for a Soldier to defend themselves and take the fight to the enemy is critical. And as an OC/T, their job is to ensure Soldiers have the capability to survive.
“Our job is to evaluate the Soldiers doing their job in a complex environment. No matter where we go, you need to understand your enemy,” said Masters. “The enemy has a dedicated will to fight. Understanding your enemies thought process and capabilities is the key to Soldier survivability.”