Soldier virtual battle assemblies: Sustaining mission readiness during a pandemic

By Staff Sgt. Edgar Valdez | U.S. Army Reserve Command | May 4, 2020

FORT BRAGG, N.C. —

From unit battle assemblies to Family programs and Yellow Ribbon events, units and leaders across the Army Reserve are finding new ways of accomplishing their training and military requirements through virtual means.

Many of the commercially available teleworking tools are not authorized due to security risks. So, how is the Army Reserve getting after this with the tools it has available?

The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program (YRRP) team started looking at ways to conduct virtual events.

“Working with the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) for Reintegration Programs, we were able to utilize the EventPlus Portal. This system allows the USAR YRRP to create online events with classes similar to what is presented at face-to-face events,” said Mr. Jeffrey F. Vaughan, the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program manager with Army Reserve Family Programs.

Soldiers are registered, approved and can train almost any weekend between now and June, he added.

The EventPlus Portal is hosted through the website: www.yellowribbon.mil.

Vaughan said Soldiers can register for an eight-hour block of instruction, which can include mandatory and elective training. Once complete, Soldiers receive a certificate that commanders can use to verify for their records, he added.

The training was provided not only to support Soldiers and Families in the mobilization cycle but also to provide training during Soldier virtual battle assemblies (SVBA) for all U.S. Army Reserve Troop Program Unit (TPU) commands.

“We started looking at what annual AR 350-1 requirements we could get after during the first month of virtual battle assemblies,” said Capt. Timothy J. Kinmartin, a corrections/detention operations officer with the 300th Military Police Brigade.
“Based on the analysis of the annual requirements, we developed training on Law of War; Threat Awareness and Reporting Program (TARP); Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE); Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP); Code of Conduct; Fraternization; Equal Opportunity training,” he added.

Kinmartin said the Commercial Virtual Remote (CVR) Environment really enabled the ability for all their sections to collaborate and receive the training seamlessly.

“I have been in contact with Army Reserve Headquarters virtual training team to work through details to complete some Army Warrior Tasks as a section. Based on their capabilities, it appears we can complete a lot of these important tasks,” said Kinmartin.

However, online training is not the only way units can conduct virtual battle assemblies. Culinary Army Reserve Soldiers baked USAR birthday-themed cakes during a weekend in April as part of their SVBA.

“Our team was slated to have a couple of Soldiers bake an Army Reserve birthday cake for a big celebration that was scheduled for Fort McCoy, Wisconsin,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Colby S. Beard, U.S. Army Reserve culinary arts team manager.

“When the plan was derailed, I reached out to the team and asked if they would still like to do a cake from home,” he added.

Beard said they called it a “cake challenge,” and Soldiers loved it.

As culinarians, they all enjoy cooking and providing meals for the Soldiers in their respective units, and this was a way to continue that along with practicing a skill, he added.

“In fact, the team loved it so much, we will be now doing a monthly culinary challenge,” said Beard. “We will choose a classical dish or cuisine and include a dessert. The recipe will be posted, and Soldiers will produce it, take pictures and submit to be added to the USAR Culinary Arts Team Facebook page.”

“We have conducted two SVBAs already,” said Staff Sgt. Elizabeth A. Barlow, operations noncommissioned officer for the 350th Public Affairs Detachment.

Barlow said the unit is using Defense Information Systems Agency-approved Defense Collaboration Services (DCS), which have a web-conference portal accessed by a common access card (CAC) on nongovernment computers. DCS also offers screen sharing, slide presentation and web cams.

The DCS portal can be accessed at https://storefront.disa.mil/kinetic/disa/service-catalog#forms/defense-collaboration-services.

“Our training consisted of everything a regular battle assembly would have,” said Barlow.

Among others, she said the unit can perform mission-essential task training, administrative tasks, noncommissioned officer huddles, professional development, and complete training meetings with the unit commander.

Barlow said that during the unit’s May SVBA, it will be opening training to the 318th Theater Public Affairs Support Element and the Mission Command Support Group for the 88th Readiness Division, along with some of its down-trace units.

As a result of COVID-19, SVBAs have been put in place to ensure Soldiers have the maximum means to maintain individual Soldier readiness, build resiliency and provide stability and security to Soldiers and Families.

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