Troops "Go for Broke" during annual training

By Staff Sgt. Edwin Basa and Sgt. Daniel Mettert | 305th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment | June 26, 2017

KAHUKU TRAINING AREA, Hi. — Bravo and Echo Companies, of the 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment conducted simulated assault training at Kahuku Training Area (KTA) on June 18 and 19, 2017. Echo Company conducted an attack as a cohesive unit in an effort to recapture a mock village. Their goal was to allow for the safe return of its residents, while minimizing damage to structures.

Meanwhile, a platoon from Delta Company repelled Echo Company as the opposition and occupying force. Participating troops spent weeks in the field to prepare for the two days of simulated battles.

According to Capt. Daniel Alvarez, an Infantry Battalion Advisor from 1st Battalion, 196th Infantry Brigade (Training Support Brigade), the exercise is part of the units' annual training (in this case, the Army Reserve's 100th Battalion, and the Hawaii Army National Guard's 29th Infantry Brigade), in which capabilities; both at the individual and multi-echelon unit level, are tested and improved upon.

Typically, this type of training is conducted once per year, when all outlying units from the 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment, can come together and conduct more advanced and complex training that generally isn't feasible during the year at their individual home-stations.

The realistic training conducted during Lava Forge (also known as Papa Koa), brought "Go for Broke" Soldiers a perspective that could not be attained in a classroom.

“This was a different experience for me,” said Spc. Preston Blakely, Echo Company, 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment. “I had done live fire exercises in the past, but nothing to this extent with actual buildings and room clearing. This was more of a team exercise, rather than individual,” he said. “It gave me a lot more respect, as a Soldier who hasn’t been deployed yet--although obviously, it can’t be compared to actual combat.”

According to Capt. William Poole, Assistant Operations Officer, 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment, training at KTA is particularly valuable for off-island troops, such as Echo Company.

“For our off-island companies, [finding adequate] training land is always a real challenge in American Samoa, and even in Guam to some extent. Here at KTA you have so much land, they can actually maneuver as company-sized elements, and company commanders get to put their platoons into action; which they don’t get to do back home,” said Poole.

Sgt. Christopher De la Cruz, non-commissioned officer in charge (NCOIC), Opposition Forces (OPFOR), Delta Company, 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment has participated in this training exercise several times. De la Cruz was responsible for preparing his troops to conduct opposition activities and repel Echo Company.

“It went really well. It was smooth,” said De la Cruz. “There were some issues with the equipment, but we went ahead and adapted and executed the mission,” he said.

According to De la Cruz the exercise helped him to become a better leader.

“It’s good to see your faults and what you’re good at, and see what you can improve on to perfect what you’re supposed to be doing,” he said.

The 196th Infantry Brigade (Training Support Brigade) ensured that both novice and experienced Soldiers gained valuable insight with regard to their strengths and weaknesses, and an understanding of how to improve.

In addition to advising and assisting partnered units in the Army Reserve and Army National Guard, Advisors from the 196th Infantry Brigade (Training Support Brigade) also carry out duties as Observer-Coach/Trainers for U.S. Active Duty Units, as well as Multinational Partnered Units through the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness
Capability (JPMRC).

“Word is getting out on the effectiveness of Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Capability (JPMRC) and the effectiveness of the exportable Combat Training Center (CTC) package that we have,” said Alvarez.

The 196th Infantry Brigade’s involvement as Observer-Coach/Trainers and Advisors during these (and other) exercises began in 1998, however the unit's long and storied combat experience has roots in the United States Army Reserve's 98th Division, dating back to the WWII era.

The 196th Infantry Brigade assists Reserve and National Guard units in Hawaii, Alaska, Guam, American Samoa, Arizona, and Saipan, as a Training Support Brigade, providing support to Reserve component forces throughout the Pacific area. The 196th Infantry Brigade has trained Soldiers who have deployed to support combat operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and the Southern Philippines. Their current involvement in exercises like Papa Koa, enable Reserve and National Guard units to tap into a wider wealth of knowledge and experience.

According to Alvarez, 196th Infantry Brigade Advisors, as well as the JPMRC’s exportable CTC package are capable of deploying to units across the globe to help assemble and conduct a training program similar to those at major training centers such as the National Training Center (NTC) in California, or Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) in Louisiana, saving units time and money while providing a valuable system to improve their readiness and capabilities.

“I really like helping these units improve their capabilities, tactics, techniques, procedures, and standard operating procedures,” said Alvarez. “It’s rewarding; when you start out working with them, and you assess whatever position or capability they’re at; and then seeing that transform as you continue advising and assisting them. The change and improvements that you see are a definite payoff.”

The weeks of planning, preparation and staging 'Go for Broke' troops in the field, culminated in a sense of accomplishment and learning for these Soldiers.

“I would say that a lot of people think that annual training is kind of just a weekend warrior thing, where Soldiers take small classes and training, and not really doing things in the field," said Blakey. "A lot of people don’t understand that the 100th Battalion, and 442nd, and everyone else here participating and helping out are actually in the field for weeks at a time--essentially 28 days of doing hands on actual infantry training.”