By Sgt. Roger Houghton
| First Army | Feb. 20, 2020
Sgt. 1st Class Charles Thomas, the Senior OC/T Instructor for FAA class 20-103, instructs Soldiers on how to safely handle pyrotechnic simulators, February 9, 2020, at the Camp Santiago Joint Training Center, Puerto Rico. FAA students are taught how to employ grenade and artillery simulators as part of their Observer, Coach/Trainer certifications. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Roger Houghton/177th Armored Brigade Public Affairs) (Photo by Sgt. Roger Houghton)
Staff Sgt. Mariano Gonzalez, an OC/T Instructor at the First Army Academy, helps OC/T students conduct a leader’s recon using the Virtual Battle Space 3 simulator, February 8, 2020, at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico. The VBS3 system allows units to conduct training without the need for drawing additional resources such as weapons or ammunition. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Roger Houghton/177th Armored Brigade Public Affairs) (Photo by Sgt. Roger Houghton)
Staff Sgt. Mariano Gonzalez, an OC/T Instructor at the First Army Academy, teaches class material to his class of Soldiers, February 6, 2020, at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico. The Soldiers are part of FAA Class 20-103, which is the first iteration of a FAA class to be conducted in Puerto Rico. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Roger Houghton/177th Armored Brigade Public Affairs) (Photo by Sgt. Roger Houghton)
A First Army Academy student attending Class 20-103 writes notes on a board during After-Action Review rehearsals, February 7, 2020, at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico. Rehearsals are an opportunity for students to ensure that they understand the material before executing a graded After-Action Review. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Roger Houghton/177th Armored Brigade Public Affairs) (Photo by Sgt. Roger Houghton)
The First Army Academy, located at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, trains every soldier assigned to First Army on the basics of being an Observer, Coach, and Trainer. Using the skills and procedures taught by the Academy, First Army Soldiers bridge the gap between the Active and Reserve Components.
With OC/Ts operating at installations all over the nation, the First Army Academy must be able to package their training in order to train and certify Soldiers.
The FAA maintains a Mobile Training Team to bring their capabilities to a wider audience, traveling to Reserve Component training sites across the United States. On February 6, the First Army Academy traveled to Puerto Rico for the first time.
Some of the Soldiers who attended FAA Class 20-103 are assigned to units who may not specialize solely in OC/T duties, but will benefit from having properly trained personnel.
Sgt. Esau Brooks from the 610th Quartermaster Water Supply Company, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands Army National Guard, was named the Distinguished Honor Graduate for Class 20-103, and expressed his desire to help train his unit.
“We don’t have many of these types of OC/Ts to help us reach our goals and get deployed,” said Brooks. “I would like to take the information I’ve learned here and be able to help my battalion, or any other battalion that needs an OC/T.”
Well-trained OC/Ts are capable of mentoring Soldiers, ensuring that commanders reach their training objectives, and conducting thorough mission essential After-Action Reviews.
Sgt. 1st Class Charles Thomas, was the Senior OC/T Instructor for the class.
“We teach duties and responsibilities, those are the biggest ones,” said Thomas. “Then, we teach things like unified land operations, pyrotechnic safety, lane-building, and how to conduct an AAR.”
To get the job done, FAA instructors travel as flexible and adaptive Mobile Training Teams made up of several OC/T instructors to ensure that units can receive their required training.
“My job is to make sure that all of the classrooms and instructors are ready. The instructors know exactly what they need to do, so it makes my job a little bit easier,” said Thomas. “I enjoy what I do, and I love teaching.”
Most of the Soldiers in class 20-103 belong to the 2nd Battalion, 348th Training Support Regiment, which is an Army Reserve unit based out of Fort Buchanan that specializes in using OC/Ts to teach, coach, and mentor the Soldiers of their partner units.
The Reserve and Active Component Soldiers within First Army must embody the Total Army Force, and the 2-348th is no exception.
When the 177th Armored Brigade holds large-scale training events such as the eXportable Combat Training Capability exercise, the 2-348th “Cobra” Battalion mobilizes their Soldiers roughly 1,700 miles to Camp Shelby to provide OC/T support, and they are expected to perform indistinguishably from their Active component partners.
Credibility, explained Sgt. 1st Class Thomas, is one of the most important things that the FAA teaches its Students.
“It’s one thing you do not want to lose,” said Thomas. “When we get to our partner units, everyone has a clear understanding and we respect one another to keep the partnership going.”
No matter what position students may hold within their units, the FAA trains them to the First Army standard.
Lt. Col. Carlos Davis, the commander of the 2-348th Battalion, is also a student in class 20-103, learning beside the Soldiers of his battalion.
“This class actually brings doctrine into play, and we learned how to get the training unit to do some self-discovery,” said Davis. “It’s not a new concept, but it helps to get people into the mindset of doing it to the standard.”
In order to show their students what ‘right looks like,’ FAA instructors lead by example to set the standard for OC/T conduct when interacting with partner units.
“The FAA instructors are top-notch, and they bring a lot of real-world experience,” said Davis. “When they speak, they’re speaking from experience and not just from the ‘book.’”