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NEWS | Aug. 26, 2021

Observer Coach/Trainers bring out the best at CSTX

By Staff Sgt. Kevin Spence 4th Cavalry Brigade First Army Division East

More than 4,000 Soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserve and Army National Guard will participate in Combat Support Training Exercise 78-21-04 here from August 7-21.

CSTX is a large-scale, U.S. Army Reserve training event where non-combat units participate in tactical training scenarios specifically designed to replicate real-world missions in preparation of the needs of combatant commanders around the world.

Observer coach/trainers from First Army Division East’s 4th Cavalry Multi-Functional Training Brigade are one of several teams providing training, coaching, and mentorship to their Reserve component partners.

“It's critical that they treat this as a tactical situation,” said Capt. Crystal Morris, a medical logistics officer and OC/T with 3rd Battalion, 409th Brigade Support Battalion.

Discussing an upcoming convoy operation, Morris said although many Reserve component Soldiers don’t train at the same frequency as their active-duty counterparts it’s important for the training to be as challenging as possible.

Injects help achieve this unpredictable training environment.

“The [injects] are meant to disrupt the convoy, startle them, and cause a little chaos,” Morris said. “However, during some injects, the convoy would simply fly right through, and we had to retrain because they needed to stop … to conduct the battle drill designed to occur at those specific situational training exercise lanes.”

To help the training audience learn from missteps made throughout the training narrative, OC/Ts conducted hot washes—informal after actions reviews—immediately after an event to process and understand what happened, why it happened, and how it could be done better in the future.

An informal AAR provides Soldiers with an effective way to make their own self-discovery about what can make them more effective.

This lesson of self-discovery and learning was not one-directional though.

“I've learned a lot simply from being a part of this training,” said Sgt. Shawn Deen, a cavalry scout with 10th Mountain Division and a member of the exercise's opposition force, “both in terms of refining our tactics and figuring out how to improve ourselves as leaders and get better at what we do.”

Opportunities for improvement some said is often unexpected.

“We had no way of knowing what type of inject we'd get,” said Sgt. Braulio Eduardo, convoy commander with 196th Transportation Company, headquartered in Orlando.

“I deployed for 9 months in Afghanistan in 2014 and had never had a key leader engagement before,” Eduardo said of one of the training lanes for convoy operations.

“The main purpose of this lane was to negotiate with a potentially friendly local national from that country in order to bypass the checkpoint and deliver some goods,” he said.

“We negotiated with the local national; it was very crowded, and I was afraid we wouldn't be able to; it wasn't clear whether they would let us through, but we were able to manage the situation and persuade them.”

When asked what he had discovered about himself and his unit, he responded there would always be room for improvement.

“They really exposed some of the areas in which we need to improve, and it teaches us that we don't know what we don't know and that we should just prepare for everything by continuing to train as we fight,” Eduardo said.