Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, NJ –
Roaring down a dirt road not far from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, four M1097 High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicles or HMMWV from 374th Chemical Company stopped at the sight of a stalled vehicle. The Soldiers scanned to see if the vehicle concealed a roadside bomb, as well as the tree line for enemy Soldiers preparing to ambush.
Training like this is fundamental to readiness. And with them every step of the way were Soldiers like Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Terzo of First Army’s 1-409th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 4th Cavalry Multi-Functional Brigade, Fort Knox, Kentucky. Terzo, an Observer Coach/Trainer of this validation exercise, jumped out of the trailing HMMWV to get a closer vantage point to see how these Reserve Component Soldiers responded to the first challenge they faced.
The convoy exercise was one of three scenario-driven components of the Combat Support Training Exercise 78-19-02 from June 8-28, 2019. The exercise was an opportunity for OC/Ts of the 78th Training Division, and the 4th Cavalry Multi-Functional Training Brigade to validate the skills of more than 2000 Army Reserve Soldiers in 30 partner units.
With Terzo’s military occupational specialty as a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist with 15 years in service and two deployments, this makes him uniquely qualified to work side-by-side and partner with a chemical company.
“OC/Ts are able to look from the outside in, they’re able to see it from within the heat of the moment as it is happening and contextualize the snap decisions that are being made,” Terzo said. “Their field of vision is wider, they see more and they’re able to objectively evaluate and give feedback to the unit.”
Terzo and his fellow OC/T’s fully understand the importance of the training and mentorship they are imparting to USAR Soldiers. Under the Total Force Concept, these units are held to the same standard as the Active Component. First Army’s primary tool for conveying that knowledge is the After Action Review or AAR.
“AARs identify sustains, improves and lessons learned for squad-sized elements and the squads can take the self-discovery they achieve during the AAR to enhance their teamwork the next time, this helps the Soldiers, leaders and command improve their overall readiness,” said Terzo.
In addition to the AARs, Opposing Forces play a vital role in creating relevant and realistic training at the exercise. With OPFOR on the ground, Soldiers are put to the test and have to adapt to a dynamic training environment.
“OPFOR are able to knock units off balance and enhance training, because we [OPFOR] are capable of reading any situation, give feedback, and alter tactics,” said 78th TD budget analyst Sgt. 1st Class Clyde Ferguson, who acted as OPFOR during the exercise.
The OPFOR are inserted into each situational training lane as a tool that allows a squad-sized element to rely on their troop leading procedures first when dealing with one or multiple scenarios. With multiple injects, the CSTX prepares these Army Reserve units with immersive training that allows them to get the training necessary to meet any situation they may face head on.
CSTX is one of the first steps in preparing units to go into combat. Units are placed in unfamiliar terrain and through repetition, build cohesion with leaders and subordinates through scenario-based exercises and they’re able to use the lessons learned and integrate those lessons in times of war. The OC/T’s are on-hand to observe and to keep units on track as they maneuver through each of the lanes.
“As an OC/T, we help Army Reserve units to be successful when it comes to progression, preparedness and readiness,” said 1-409th BEB battalion commander Lt. Col. James Scott, senior OC/T and officer in charge. “We provide them with that insight, the guidance that helps them progress and become better at doing their job as trainers and as professionals.”