SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, HAWAII - The U.S. Army Reserve’s 303rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (MEB), a Direct Reporting Unit (DRU) of the 9th Mission Support Command (MSC), spent the month of September assigned to the 25th Infantry Division (ID), acting as a Protection Brigade during the Warfighter Exercise, at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.
The exercise is built around a scenario that follows the OCONUS (Outside the Continental U.S.) Unified Land Operations construct. According to Army Doctrine (ADP) 3-0, Unified Land Operations describes how the Army seizes, retains, and exploits the initiative to gain and maintain a position of relative advantage. This is accomplished through simultaneous offensive, defensive, and stability operations, in an effort to prevent or prevail in war, or create conditions for favorable conflict resolution.
The 25th ID served as the advancing force during the exercise, or the front, while the 303rd MEB provided rear guard protection, as well as the logistics and support, as well as the command post.
“There are no designated Protection Brigades in the Army; there are only (Army Reserve) MEBs,” said 303rd MEB Commander, Col. Clint Barnes. “The MEBs are, in essence, the Protection Brigades who protect the rear battle space of the division.”
Barnes says this Warfighter Exercise proved different from prior because this is the first time a MEB retained all of the organic assets needed to provide support. Typically, the higher command pulls any supporting elements provided by the MEB out to control and utilize as the division sees fit.
“I retained total operational control of all of my units,” said Barnes. “Once the division requested support of a specific asset, we would task them out to complete their mission, and then they would return back to the MEB allowing us to send them somewhere else they are needed.”
The MEB also had an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to manage terrain on the battlefield. This enabled the MEB Commander to place his forces where he determined they would be the most effective in providing protection to the division and the support units.
“That is a revolutionary concept,” said Barnes. “That isn’t exactly the way the Army has operated before, but we proved it works at this Warfighter, by providing quality protection to the 25th ID’s forces.”
The 303rd’s execution of this new tactical way of providing protection, left the Division Commander and his leadership extremely pleased, according to Barnes. So pleased, that the 25th intends to include the 303rd in future operations, a command relationship the 9th MSC has not had before.
“We’ve been charged with taking these ideas out, not just to other MEBs, but to other divisions,” said Barnes. “That way they can incorporate them into training, exercises, and Warfighters in the future, now that the 303rd has proven that it works.”
This technique grants all leadership greater tactical flexibility by allowing the MEB to maintain full operation control of their capabilities and not just being used as a “toolbox”, as Barnes describes it.
“Traditionally we have just been used as a response cell in these types of efforts,” said 303rd MEB Deputy Commander, Lt. Col. Neiland Cota. “This time we came as an enhanced response cell, meaning we brought with us greater numbers of personnel equipped to perform the tasks that the staff would have to perform.”
In addition to being an excellent training opportunity for the brigade, it was also a great chance for the Soldiers in the MEB to see how their hard work and their training serves the common goal of the brigade.
“Exercise Warfighter has provided our Soldiers an opportunity to see the real-world capabilities of our command,” said 303rd MEB S3, Master Sgt. Joshua Reece. “It gives them a great example of how their individual job, and its function, connects to the command’s ‘fight where we live’ mantra.”
Exercises like Warfighter permit Reserve Soldiers the ability to work alongside one another, as well as Soldiers from different commands and occupational specialties they may not regularly be exposed to.
“On one of the training events I was able to work with the combat medics and ride in a Black Hawk,” said 303rd MEB Spc. Morgan Frey, who works in animal medicine in her civilian life. “It was really fun and interesting to learn more about military medicine, especially as a 31-Bravo (Military Police), since medical knowledge could one day allow me to help my battle buddies.”
It is a trademark of the Army Reserve, to have a fighting force full of Soldiers like Frey, who are not only elite at their military occupational specialty (MOS), but also maintain a professional career in the civilian world. Warfighter builds upon this and challenges these same Soldiers to step further out of their comfort zones and deeper into roles that allows them to grow.
“As a Junior Enlisted, we don’t get the chance to practice briefing other Soldiers all that much,” said 303rd MEB Spc. David Chan. “At first, it was nerve-wracking for me to do a brief in a room full of Officers.”
“My experience was challenging and rewarding. I got to be a part of Warfighter in addition to planning concurrent training for the junior Soldiers and staff,” said 303rd MEB Executive Officer, 1st Lt. Vuong Nguyen. “I think every Leader should take part in exercises like these to have a better understanding of their role and their importance to our Army.”
Success in the exercise did not come without some growing pains, as the 303rd integrated into the 25th ID for the first time ever in this capacity. Like any other job that involves wearing the Army uniform, the MEB had to come in, build trust, and establish a reputation with the 25th predicated on their professionalism and capability. The MEB also quickly adapted to using the 25th’s battlefield combat systems they were unfamiliar with, learning them on the fly executing missions in the exercise.
“Once that happened, once our Soldiers got their footing, we took off,” said Barnes.
In addition to the 303rd’s operational mission at the Warfighter Exercise, the MEB Commander said they also had the goal of establishing the unit’s “Imua,” identity. “Pahu Imua”, the motto of the 303rd MEB, is Hawaiian meaning to “push forward,” and Colonel Barnes believes the 303rd did just that.