WAINWRIGHT, Canada –
BOOM! The thunder of an explosion attached itself to the fading light of the day as both flowed through the small city May 17. A pre-battle silence filled the space left by the absence of the explosion.
“They are about to begin,” muttered a figure atop a six-story building. Sgt. Zachary Wilks, a combat engineer with the 2/363rd Training Support Battalion from Mesa, Arizona was about to perform an aspect of his job, simulating casualties with Weapons Effects Simulations (WES) gear within a mock-up city.
Wilks, is an observer, coach, trainer (OCT) for Exercise Maple Resolve 19-01, assisting the 3rd Canadian Support Division Detachment in Wainwright, Alberta, Canada.
Maple Resolve is an annual brigade-level validation exercise for the Canadian Army’s High Readiness Brigade and is designed to foster partnership among different nations’ forces. The validation of the different participating units is placed upon the shoulders of a select few individuals from different countries. These individuals are the OCTs.
“The strengths of the OCTs is in their personal experiences in the past,” said Wilks. “These experiences allow the OCTs to go out and say this is what we’ve seen, this is what works, and we can use that knowledge to shape future training.”
Another experienced OCT is U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Eric Wendt, also with the training support battalion from Mesa.
“We are kind of quiet, kind of unseen sometimes, but we are strictly observing and taking a lot of notes,” said Wendt. “Then we provide a lot of feedback to the command group and the soldiers.”
This allows them to discover what some of their weaknesses are and make them stronger overall.
Both Wendt and Wilks have been mainly working with the 979th Mobile Augmentation Company based in Lexington, Kentucky.
“Our evaluations help the 979th work with their command team to the lowest Soldier,” said Wilks. “They can then find out what their strengths and weaknesses are and work on both aspects. The nice thing is, about being an OCT, is that you’re able to observe and then coach afterwards. You’re able to lend a better hand to not only being more competent at combat but being better Soldiers.”
After every single engagement the 979th takes part in, Wendt and Wilks pull the unit off to the side and conduct a formal after-action review or AAR. Wilks stated that they ask the Soldiers what was supposed to happened and compare that to what actually happened. They then dissect the information and ask everyone to participate.
“Everybody has their own personal aspect of it; we are able to have a great conversation so as to give a full body answer,” he said. “Everybody walks away with a better understanding of what truly happened.”
Wendt and Wilks also receive feedback from fellow OCTs from different countries. Wendt commented that he is learning a lot from the leadership of the OCTs and the OCTs in the field during the training.
“Getting their feedback is also very valuable to me as well,” said Wendt. “It’s helping me develop as an OCT and as an NCO (noncommissioned officer).”