Task Force Wolf taps Army Reserve to train future leaders

By Staff Sgt. Scott Griffin | U.S. Army Reserve Command | July 10, 2017

FORT KNOX, Ky. — Qualified and experienced U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers are in high demand as America’s highly sophisticated, lethal, full-spectrum Army Reserve evolves to take on a greater role supporting the demands of the active duty Army.

Task Force Wolf at Fort Knox, Kentucky, is the headquarters for U.S. Army Reserve drill sergeant units supporting Cadet Summer Training (CST). Comprised of U.S. Army Reserve drill sergeants from the 104th Training Division based at Joint Base Fort Lewis McChord in Washington State, the task force works in coordination with U.S. Army Cadet Command to train and develop future Army, National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve leaders.

“The Soldiers of Task Force Wolf provide training for the Recruit Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadets for both their basic camp and their advance camp,” said Col. Malcolm Walker, commander of Task Force Wolf.

ROTC is a group of college-based officer training programs for developing commissioned officers of the United States Armed Forces. While in college, cadets participate in regular military training that is integrated into their normal school year. Their summer break is utilized for an immersive, month-long training event. Nearly 9,000 cadets participate in the training every year.

“The object of the course is to turn out second lieutenants,” Walker said. Those newly-commissioned junior officers then choose whether to join the active duty or serve in the National Guard or Army Reserve. “A large number of those cadets that become second lieutenants will enter the Army Reserve force.” Choosing the Army Reserve allows Soldiers to pursue civilian careers and further their education while simultaneously serving their country and communities.

As the U.S. Army Reserve continues to evolve to confront new threats and unique challenges, a greater number of Soldiers providing training for those future leaders are themselves members of the U.S. Army Reserve. Task Force Wolf manages hundreds of U.S. Army Reserve drill sergeants, training experts, and other service support specialists to produce the best-trained future military leaders. Utilizing U.S. Army Reserve personnel has allowed Cadet Command to maintain its excellent training program while reducing its reliance on active duty forces.

“One of Cadet Command’s goals is to increase the Army Reserve footprint,” Col. Walker said. “This year we’re more heavily engaged with drill sergeants than ever before. There is a demand signal from the active duty to increase drill sergeants across the force, whether it’s to increase advanced individual training platoons or here at CST.”

The prominent role of Task Force Wolf provides an opportunity to inform cadets about the U.S. Army Reserve as an organization. Cadets encounter U.S. Army Reserve drill sergeants from the moment they begin quaking in their boots during the initial shock and awe of “shark week,” as cadets are introduced to the discipline and order of military training. Every single screaming, terrifying drill sergeant is an Army Reserve Soldier from the 104th Training Division.

“A lot of times, this is a cadet’s first face-to-face contact with a Soldier, so they ask about our past – the 104th division patch – and they’re surprised to find out we’re Reservists,” Col. Walker said. “They didn’t realize that the Army Reserve had such a prominent role in their training.”

Fort Knox is a buzz of constant activity during Cadet Summer Training as swarms of potential officers are constantly marching, running and rucking from one task to the next under the constant scrutiny of the ubiquitous “brown rounds”— the distinctive headgear worn exclusively by drill sergeants. These U.S. Army Reserve noncommissioned officers are responsible for providing constant order and discipline for the cadets while cultivating their leadership skills.

Sgt. 1st Class Felipe Trejo with 2nd Brigade, 104th Training Division, is the senior drill sergeant for Task Force Wolf’s 2nd Regiment. “I’m here to train and lead theses cadets,” Trejo said. “To make them Soldiers, officers and leaders.”

The increasing demand for U.S. Army Reserve drill sergeants opens up numerous opportunities for Soldiers who have pondered the possibility of wearing the ‘brown round’ themselves, an undertaking that Trejo says should not be taken lightly.

“You’ve got to be ready for it, physically and mentally. It’s up to you,” Trejo said. “The training to become a drill sergeant can be rigorous. You’ve got a lot of doctrine, a lot of instruction – step by step, by step, by step.” Every Reserve drill sergeant with Task Force Wolf has completed the same intense, unforgiving training and met the same unwavering standard required of all graduates of the Army’s Drill Sergeant Academy. “Once you get on the ground at Fort Jackson, South Carolina …” Trejo says. “Yes. Yes, they will get you and they will train you correctly.”

Trejo is currently a full-time student himself, studying landscape architecture at the University of Kentucky and working part-time, but his duties with Task Force Wolf provide a unique reward.

“It’s seeing that civilian become a Soldier,” Trejo said. “That’s our job – to assist each individual in their efforts to become a highly-motivated, well-disciplined, physically and mentally-fit Soldier. You instill pride in all you train, so for me, that’s the best.”

All Soldiers train to the same standards, and the Soldiers of TF Wolf make no exceptions. Cadet Summer Training covers all the necessary basics of Soldiering, from pre-dawn physical training, to land navigation in the sweltering Kentucky heat, to countless hours of drill and ceremony practice, to the unique experience of being exposed to compound 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile – better known as CS Gas.

U.S. Army Reserve NCOs provide training for cadets at the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosive (CBRNE) Committee, sharing their expertise as they repeatedly emphasized the importance of the mission oriented protective posture that can shield Soldiers from various chemical hazards. Already exhausted from PT and hours of scrambling around obstacle courses, the cadets were split up by squads for blocks of instruction on recognizing and responding to CBRNE threats.

A training NCO yells, “Gas! Gas! Gas!” and cadets rush to correctly don their protective masks within the allotted nine seconds. The threat of chemical weapons is untested theory until cadets are locked into the “gas chamber” – a small, single-room building that stinks like nothing else on Earth. Cadets are marched into the room wearing their protective masks as training NCOs waft plumes of CS gas through the air, to saturate the barren, claustrophobic space.

Training NCOs order the cadets to run in place to increase their breathing and heart rates. “Within the chamber, they’re going to break the seal and then re-seal their protective mask,” said Staff Sgt. John Bustard. Then it’s time for the cadets to get a proper whiff of CS and experience how harsh even non-lethal chemical warfare can be.

“They’re going to remove their protective masks,” Brassard smiled, “and then they’re going to race on out the door.”

Cadet April Puerto, a senior at the University of North Georgia, was acting squad leader for 1st Platoon, Delta Company, during her afternoon at the CBRNE range.

“Prepping for the gas chamber was very extensive, but we were able to get it all handled in just a couple hours,” Puerto said. “I passed everything just fine, so if they can teach me when I’m already dead tired, then they’re great.”

As for her experience in the gas chamber …

“I was dying – I was definitely dying in there. I took off my protective mask a little bit early, and I was at the end of the line,” Puerto said. Used as a riot control agent, CS Gas creates sensations of burning and irritation that cause profuse coughing, difficulty breathing and mucous nasal discharge that partially incapacitates the subject. “If you haven’t tried it, I’d definitely recommend it.”

Behind the scenes of all the sweat and tears expelled on the training ranges are scores of U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers who keep the event running like a well-oiled machine. Cadets require training – a lot of training – but that also means cooks are needed to feed them, medics are needed to fix them, and supplies are needed to equip them. From the assault rifles in their hands to the uniforms on their backs, those supplies need to be kept clean and in good working order. Again, the Army Reserve has stepped up to handle that mission.

The 254th Quartermaster Company out of York, Pennsylvania, handles the laundry duties for the thousands of cadets attending CST at Fort Knox every year. Thousands of bags of clothing are processed through their area of operation, and turnaround expectations are intense. The Reserve Soldiers operate mobile Laundry Advanced Systems (LADS) to clean and dry all of the cadets’ PT and duty uniforms, including those still reeking of CS gas.

“We’re operating at just over half strength,” said Sgt. Adam Wiestling, NCOIC of the detachment. Out of the six LADs on-site, the unit has been able to get four up and running. “The teams that have been here in years past [told me] that they haven’t seen four operational LADS in a very, very long time.”

Preventative maintenance, care and service – every piece of equipment in the Army requires it, but the arcane technical wizardry needed to keep the four massive washing machines running at peak output is one of the uncanny abilities of the quartermaster unit’s newest Reserve Soldier, Pvt. Funzo Belk III.

“Private Belk is a fresh-out-basic Soldier who has come here with a world of knowledge that he got out of his schooling,” Wiestling said. “He’s an excellent Soldier – he listens, he understands everything. The level of knowledge and commitment from that Soldier is just outstanding.”

Wiestling said staying focused on the overall welfare of the cadets keeps the 254th motivated.

“The moment I came out of basic and AIT, I realized the boost in morale we gave to the Soldiers we supported,” Wiestling said. “The excitement (Soldiers) got from a field shower every few days or the laundry return, after being out in the field and in the rough of it, getting that morale feedback … We have far exceeded the standards of what anyone has set before. It’s outstanding what these Soldiers have done and what they’ve accomplished.”

Task Force Wolf draws on the accomplishments, experiences and expertise of U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers to craft future leaders who will contribute to the Army as whole – many of whom will choose to join a U.S. Army Reserve that is more capable, ready and lethal than ever before.

“It’s our job to make them better leaders – we’re making them better leaders before they go to their officer basic course. Then they’re going to come back into the Army Reserve force – they’re going to spread out across the country and go into our (operational and functional) or training units in support of the Army Reserve,” Walker said. “From beginning to end, we’re making them better leaders for the future.”

News Search