FORT CAVAZOS, Texas — Several days of rain provided much needed water to Belton Lake, but also created dense, muddy terrain that was a challenge to maneuver in, let alone conduct the largest combat exercise here in three years.
Remagen Ready 24-1 was a blended live and constructive, joint, multi-echelon, division-sized combined arms exercise that included a contested gap crossing.
Soldiers participated in a hands-on tactical exercise Oct. 30 – Nov. 9, which tested the brigade’s proficiency in navigating a wet gap crossing; moving troops, light and heavy vehicles and supplies from one side of Belton Lake to the other; and reinforced the vital training required to be “ready to deploy, fight, sustain and win in multi-domain operations anywhere in the world,” according to III Armored Corps.
“It doesn’t matter that you have the world’s greatest tank ready, if you can’t get it to where it needs to be,” said Maj. Brian Harris, chief of community relations, III Armored Corps. “The ability to move and not to get bogged down and to advance is so crucial, and so in III Armored Corps, you know, that can’t be more important to us.
“So, this is one step in the evolution of figuring out how we can use the sort of unique aspects of Fort Cavazos, which includes the fact that we have Belton Lake here and that we own both sides of it,” he continued. “And so, we can do something like this which oftentimes at installations you’re not able to do.”
An exercise of this magnitude could not function independently of the many Garrison tenants that provide constructive services and resources support.
Nearly 60 civilian team members from across the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security collaborated to provide range operations support, devices and secure and schedule training areas.
“It’s very important to provide them with training neighbors to assist training units on the installation to be successful,” said Chris Hoffman, chief of training for DPTMS.
The Fort Cavazos Fire Department arranged emergency medical, water rescue and hazmat response support and was prepared to render first aid and water rescue measures at a moment’s notice.
Additionally, more than a dozen volunteer personnel from Morgan’s Point Dive Team provided additional water rescue support.
“The safety of the Soldiers is important,” said Andrew Lima, chief of the Fort Cavazos Fire Department. “If we don’t have the assets for personnel, then we don’t have an exercise. To keep those guys safe at all times, that’s why it’s very important that we were there.”
Maj. Edwin Martinez, deputy corps engineer for Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, III Armored Corps, described the partnership as symbiotic.
“We could not do an exercise of this scale without working hand in hand with the Garrison entities,” he said. “The digital environment, the systems, the hardware, everything enables us to do this.
“We are interconnected. Fort Cavazos installation and the Fort Cavazos units, we have to work hand in hand,” Martinez continued. “When we all work together for the common goal to train our Soldiers and our armed forces, we train our young men and women to be ready and that’s our purpose. We’re working together to achieve that goal.”
Trudging in boot-deep mud, Soldiers from the 74th Multi-Road Bridge Company, 62nd Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade, worked to assemble an Improved Ribbon Bridge consisting of ramps and interior bays to create a floating roadway that allows Soldiers, their vehicles and equipment to cross the waterway safely.
M30 Bridge Erection Boats attached to the sides of the IRB guided sections into place and kept the fully assembled structure from floating off site due to the current.
Soldiers drove Bradley Fighting Vehicles, all-terrain vehicles and fuel trucks, onto the IRB to float the machinery approximately 1,700 meters, or a little more than a mile, to the opposite side of the lake.
“It may look like a relatively small gap that they’re crossing,” Harris said. “(Yet) it’s a significant effort to do it right, to do it safely.”
Soldiers were also tasked with completing the crossing while negotiating obscured vision due to thick smoke emitting from non-toxic fog oil canisters.
“It’s a representation of the current operating environments, the current battlefield that we foresee, and we have to move, we have to learn to operate in these conditions,” Martinez explained.
The water crossing began the morning of Nov. 3 and was expected to take a couple of days to complete according to Lt. Col. Tania Donovan, deputy public affairs officer for III Armored Corps.
She explained that the wet gap crossing is just one aspect of the exercise.
“While this is what we are seeing right now, really the entire Remagen Ready exercise is focused on large scale combat operations,” Donovan explained. “It is 24/7 where they test out everything from communication capabilities talking to units all across the battlefield, talking to each other, coordinating, synchronizing.
“In order to have and put together an exercise for the Soldiers, we need planners, we need facilities, we need the support to really identify the objective, set it on the map for the Soldiers and also, play the other side,” she continued. “In this exercise, we have Garrison capabilities doing that, we have a lot of our civilians focused on the systems that are required to facilitate the training for the Soldiers.”
More than 100 civilians collaborated with roughly 6,000 Soldiers from 1st Cavalry Division, III Armored Corps Headquarters, 13th Armored Corps Sustainment Command, 11th Signal Brigade, 36th Engineer Brigade, 75th Field Artillery Brigade, 504th Military Intelligence Brigade and 3rd Air Support Operations Group, in the exercise and more than 700 wheeled vehicles and nearly 160 tracked vehicles crossed the wet gap during the nearly two-week training.
Harris said the long-term goal is to see if Fort Cavazos can eventually become the gap crossing training headquarters for other installations.
“For now, it’s training tenant units at Fort Cavazos, but there’s a belief that there’s other units around the Army that potentially could use this kind of training,” he explained. “And so, this is the next step in testing out our ability to do it here; can we get it to the point where we could potentially be able to offer it as an option to units that are deploying. Maybe it becomes a training center that’s not just for Fort Cavazos.”