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First Army helps build a more mobile force of ready reserve

By Master Sgt. Anthony L Taylor | First Army | July 26, 2017

FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. — First Army observer coach/trainers partnered with reserve-component OC/Ts to train approximately 5,000 Army Reserve and National Guard forces here this month.

Operations spread across Fort Hunter Liggett’s 165,000 acres of mountains, valleys and plains during Combat Support Training Exercise 91-17-03.

It’s an austere environment, said Col. Flint Patterson, commander of the 4th Cavalry Multi-Functional Training Brigade, First Army Division East, and units are now training to operate without support from Forward Operating Bases.

“They’re coming in and establishing their own security to protect themselves, as well as conduct their tactical missions.”

Patterson said that 4th CAV MFTB partnered with the Army Reserve’s 91st Training Division, which was responsible for the activity on the exercise grounds. The 4th CAV MFTB provided about 65 active- and reserve-component OC/Ts to augment the division and assist in executing their mission.

CSTX 91-17-03 focused on combat support and combat maneuver support, including logistical or sustainment training for combat sustainment support battalions, military police and medical training.

The commanders’ training objectives were the key to obtaining training readiness goals, Patterson said. Commanders have to be able to assess their units to know what level they are coming in to the training and have an objective to achieve for training readiness.

“After this exercise, the commander should be able to come in with identified weaknesses and strengths, work on those through accomplishing their mission essential tasks, evaluate those tasks, and on the other end come back showing slight or great improvement based on the number of iterations that they can get (to) train their units here,” Patterson said. “But it’s critical that they bring all of their Soldiers necessary to this type of training event, ready to train, and negotiate the various tasks associated collectively for the unit.”

First Army’s 4th CAV MFTB is committed as partners to the Reserve Components in support of the Army Total Force, and its partnership efforts exceed the CSTX and similar training exercises. 4th CAV MFTB partners in support of Reserve units’ readiness goals throughout the United States, and during the CSTX the 4th CAV MFTB trained and supported more than 12 of their partner units.

“It’s inherently important that the partnership that we have with these units is shaped prior to them coming here,” Patterson said. “So we get a chance to participate in (their) battle assembly weekends (and) to participate in their (Extended Combat Training). When they come here for this exercise, we actually see them culminate and do a very good job, or help them do increasingly better than what they’ve done at home station, so far, to see them uptick in terms of their level of readiness for training.”

Maj. Gen. Todd McCaffrey, commanding general of First Army Division East, conducted “battlefield circulation” at the exercise for several days, meeting with leaders, OC/Ts and the training audience to evaluate progress and the training conditions.

“This exercise is a great example of multi-component, multi-echelon training,” McCaffrey said. “I think what First Army brings to the 84th Training Command and, more specifically, the 91st Training Division is another layer of OC/T expertise. It allows this trained apparatus from the Army Reserve and the training apparatus from the active Army to work together toward enhancing and enabling readiness.”

Army Reserve Lt. Col. Ammon Campbell, of the 2-378th Battalion, 1st Brigade, 91st Training Division, and chief of training for OC/Ts on the ground, worked closely with First Army to execute OC/T support to the training audience. Although the First Army OC/Ts are serving in an advisory role, he said, in some cases, the First Army and 91st Training Division OC/Ts have combined their teams because First Army’s subject matter experts provide additional resources, knowledge and experience.

“That’s been a really good relationship that’s allowed me to execute mission command that I don’t get to do back at home station, (because) our detachments are spread over four states. We’ve been working together approximately 10 days and learning from each other. I’ve enjoyed the relationship 100 percent.”

Capt. Elijah Murrell, of the Army Reserve’s 3rd Battalion, 383rd Regiment, 4th CAV MFTB in St. Louis, Missouri, was the lead OC/T for the 208th Transportation (Palletized Loading System) Company, based in Marana, Arizona. He coached the commander and observed the unit’s collective and mission essential tasks, helping to ensure the 208th is ready to quickly deploy as an Army Early Response Force unit.

Murrell pointed out that maintaining accountability, especially when the plan becomes skewed, and continuously rehearsing mission essential tasks and troop leading procedures are key to remaining in the “stay in the fight” mindset and executing as a successful unit.

McCaffrey said the OC/T partnership was producing great value in readiness for all present at the exercise.

“There are some very clearly skilled and motivated company-level leaders on the ground doing some remarkable things with our outfits,” McCaffrey said. “This platform of Fort Hunter Liggett, and the exercise that the 91st Training Division has put together, is a great opportunity to get at the kinds of readiness that we need to have at our Army reserve-component forces.”

Capt. Ciera Jackson, commander of the 208th Transportation Company, said her unit transports containerized cargo and most any item that can be transported on crane-operated vehicles and placed on pallets, with the exception of fuel.

“The CSTX is preparing us for AERF because we’re not used to being in an austere environment. We are adjusting accordingly to not think of how (Soldiers) used to mobilize and operate on FOBs,” Jackson said. “Now we have to be self-sufficient and to sustain ourselves. When it’s time to go, we have to get up and go.”