FORT MEADE, Md. (Aug. 13, 2013) – First Army Division East trainers/mentors play an integral role in ensuring Reserve Component units maintain a high degree of readiness. Recently when members of the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, a National Guard unit, conducted a command post exercise at Fort Drum, N.Y., Soldiers from 4th Cavalry Brigade, First Army Division East, were standing ready as trainers/mentors and subject matter experts.
“They mentored and evaluated us on everything from start to finish,” explained First Sgt. Thomas Graves,with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, or IBCT. “They give us ideas on what we need to do to move forward. They truly have the mentorship role, teaching us how to get over hurdles that maybe other Guard units still struggle with.”
With a geographically dispersed brigade like the 86th IBCT — headquartered in Vermont and composed of Soldiers from five different states — Graves said the trainers/mentors from 4th Cav. Bde. were essential to success of the command post exercise, known as a CPX.
“They have a lot of experience there,” he concluded. “As trainers, they are very much in tune with doctrine and Department of the Army policies. First Army is using their background to teach us many best practices in various areas, like equipment, strategy, techniques, tactics and procedures, and even communication.”
As the mission in Afghanistan winds down, training to maintain the operational reserve’s high level of readiness becomes essential in ensuring national security decision makers have a trained and ready force to respond to unforeseen contingencies. This CPX is the first of several training exercises the 86th IBCT will complete over a two-week period, explained Lt. Col. Paul Ramsey, deputy commander, 4th Cav. Bde, Fort Knox, Ky.
“They’ve come together for their two weeks of annual training to conduct a series of events in order to prepare them to go to the [Joint Readiness Training Center],” said Ramsey. “The overriding event is the platoon situational training lane exercises that will validate their platoon.”
The CPX, Ramsey explained, focuses primarily on the brigade staff. Col. John Boyd, 86th IBCT commander, echoed the importance of validating his staff.
“From my perspective it allows us to exercise the staff, to train the staff, and then to pull each of those war fighting functions together, synchronize them and get those staff officers to understand why their piece of the puzzle is so important and how all of those pieces coming together are what makes that brigade that much more lethal on the battlefield,” Boyd said.
Leaders from both the 86th IBCT and 4th Cav. Bde began working months in advance of the event to ensure the overall plan reflected Boyd’s focus. Col. John Prairie, 4th Cav. Bde commander, said the relationship between the two brigades grew as they worked to ensure the unit’s success.
“The relationship between the 86th IBCT and 4th Cav grew stronger during the execution and completion of this event,” Prairie stressed. “We took it to heart that we are trainer/mentors and not just there to observe and comment.”
“The 86th IBCT’s success was our success,” Prairie continued. “Through my observations, the trainer/mentors were extremely professional throughout the entire exercise, and the 86th IBCT command and staff were eager students, absorbing all our comments and input in an effort to improve their capabilities. The 86th IBCT was truly a learning organization and are better because of their hard work and dedication during this CPX.”
Boyd was also appreciative of the 4th Cav. Bde’s expertise and trainer and mentoring assistance.
“It’s been outstanding,” said Boyd. “The team from First Army, 4th Cav. Bde, Colonel Prairie and his people — and for me in particular to have Brigadier General (George) Schwartz here as a senior mentor — meant the world. His expertise brought a lot to the table for me. Those folks bring a wealth of knowledge to us and have been very engaged in making sure that they are acting as trainer/mentors and helping make our staff officers in our brigade a better organization.”
As the senior mentor at the exercise, Schwartz, First Army Division East’s deputy commanding general for Operations, provided the commander and his senior staff insights on leadership, operations, and other warfighter functions. Schwartz formerly commanded the 55th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, now called the 55th Armor Brigade Combat Team, Pennsylvania National Guard, and is currently dual-hatted as both the First Army Division East DCG-O and the Assistant Adjutant General of Pennsylvania.
The teamwork of the 86th IBCT and the 4th Cav. Bde trainers/mentors helped the CPX immensely, Prairie explained.
“It was truly a team effort by all participants,” Prairie concluded. “The 86th IBCT was able to identify their strengths and weakness within their standard operating procedures and staff functions and are now able to identify realistic/feasible solutions in preparation for their upcoming [Joint Readiness Training Center] rotation. It also helped all of us to identify the transformation we need to make from COIN (Counter Insurgency Operations) to ULO/DA (Unified Land Operations/Decisive Action) operations.”
The CPX was just their first phase of the two-week training plan. Boyd said he is confident his unit, with the training and mentorship of 4th Cav. Bde, will continue to grow and learn.
“Based upon the positive trends from day one — talking to sections, reviewing products that they are producing — you can see there is a synergy going,” Boyd concluded. “There is good cross talk among the war fighting functions. There’s vertical talk between the brigade and battalion. So I’m confident they have done some great things.”