CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. – It’s a recipe for cooperation when active Army, Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers train together in a challenging environment. Add some Indiana heat and you have Pershing Strike.
“Pershing Strike is a yearly exercise that’s led by U.S. Forces Command and executed by First Army. It’s really to test the Mobilization Force Generation Installation’s ability to conduct large scale mobilization operations in support of large-scale combat operations, “said Col. Troy Mills, Commander, 157th Infantry Brigade, Camp Atterbury, Indiana. “The active and reserve component bring in expertise in their fields based on Military Occupational Specialty or branch, as well as being the subject matter expertise for that MOS. We provide that relevant training to the National Guard and reserve component units as they come through Camp Atterbury.”
One of those units is the Kentucky National Guard’s 2113th Transportation Company based in Paducah, Kentucky.
“We made it through the train ups and evaluations here at Camp Atterbury as a more cohesive team,” said 1st Lt. Hope Smith, Company Commander, 2113th Transportation Company, Paducah, Kentucky. “Probably the most effective training the unit received was the convoy training.”
Convoy training was one of the training opportunities Soldiers conducted and were evaluated on, under the watchful eyes of the observer coach/trainers.
“We will be checking on safety. Making sure everything is safe,” said Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Nicodemus, OC/T, 1-290th Transportation Support Battalion, Camp Atterbury, Indiana. “One of the biggest things is that Soldiers know how to conduct proper reporting procedures and make sure they have the correct protective equipment before they go on the convoy.”
Before the convoy left, Nicodemus checked on communications between the trucks.
“If they don’t have communications, that’s a concern to me,” he said.
Part of the training focused on dealing with civilian protestors.
A Soldier who participated in the convoy, Staff Sgt. Brent Cope, 88 Mike, Truck Driver, 2113th Transportation Company, Paducah, Kentucky, said the training provided Soldiers with a shift in thinking about how to react to protestors that they might encounter.
“One of the key factors is everybody has the mindset that we’re still in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we were briefed on the convoy, we were told to treat the protestors like civilians,” said Cope. “Be kind and polite and treat them like neighbors, not (threats). Know the country you are going to be in. Customs and courtesies go a long way.”
“It’s all about getting (repetitions) and sets before they get into theater. The Soldiers are getting the opportunity to haul supplies,” said Col. Timothy Starke, G-3, Kentucky National Guard, Paducah, Kentucky. “It’s great to be able to do it at Camp Atterbury. We see Pershing Strike as a great opportunity for our unit to be validated here. As part of the foundations of training, the most important units are led by staff sergeants. They need reps on communications and Soldier skills. We must be able to operate de-centralized.”
Helping Soldiers identify areas for improvement and maintain good practices is the job of the OC/T.
“We are not here to point out their flaws. We are here to have them self-identify. What we mean by self-identify is to learn how to do better and succeed in the mission,” said Staff Sgt. Jessica Ecker, OC/T, 2-338th Training Support Battalion, Camp Atterbury, Indiana. “It’s also to identify what they did well and continue to include that in the mission.”
Ecker, a medical logistics Soldier with 14 years of Army Reserve service, values her role as an OC/T.
“I like being an OC/T because I’m integrated with so many different military occupational specialties. It helps me grow as a Soldier,” Ecker said.
Army Reserve Soldiers assigned to the 157th Infantry Brigade conducted annual training while operating as support elements to Pershing Strike. They practiced skills such as firing the 50 Caliber machine gun.
“I’m firing the 50-caliber machine gun for the first time,” said Sgt. Devon Diel, 25 uniform, Systems Support Specialist, 3-411th Logistics Support Battalion, Camp Atterbury, Indiana. “I’m working with my assistant gunner who lets me know where the targets are and how to adjust my weapon.”
Spc. George Cooper, 91 Bravo, Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic, 3-411th, (LSBN) Camp Atterbury, Indiana helped feed the ammunition and assisted Diel with targeting.
“It’s fun to shoot. The range instructors give us guidance on how far out the target is and how to adjust fire,” said Cooper, who served four years on active duty and is completing his first year as an Army Reserve Soldier.
“It’s an adjustment being an Army Reserve Soldier compared to active duty,” Cooper said.
Soldiers also practiced land navigation using a magnetic compass.
“It’s good Soldier training. It’s a relief from paperwork and meetings. It’s nice to do something fundamental,” said Capt. Robert Duncanson, Assistant S-3, 3-338th Transportation Support Battalion, Blacklick, Ohio. “As an OC/T unit, it is essential to be solid in the fundamentals in order to give good feedback to the units we are training.”
Duncanson, a public affairs student at Ohio State University, touched on what his service is like in the Army Reserve.
“What I really appreciate is the camaraderie and professionalism of the Army Reserve Soldiers that I work with,” said Duncanson. “It’s reassuring to have so many leaders who can work independently and accomplish a task on short notice.”