JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. –
The cold, wet weather typically experienced in the Pacific Northwest can make field operations and training challenging for even for the most experienced unit. However, the Army Reserve Soldiers of 1-364th Training Support Battalion ‘Pumas’, 189th Infantry Brigade were willing to take on these brisk conditions during a multi-faceted field training exercise dubbed Operation Thunderstruck at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, on Jan. 18-21, 2023, to achieve their collective and individual readiness.
“Operation Thunderstruck is a way for us to get back to the basics with some Soldier skills we haven’t used in a long time such as land navigation, convoy operations, calling in reports, etc.,” said Lt. Col. Kristy Norquist, the battalion’s commander. “It also makes us better Observer, Coach, Trainers (OC/Ts) with night and day driver training and practicing different after-action review formats at each of the events.”
Conditions were well established prior to the exercise to ensure enhanced professional growth and development for everyone involved.
“Ultimately with this exercise, we are looking to accomplish better overall readiness among our warrior tasks and building towards OC/T certification for those who require it with patrolling the [situational training exercise] lanes, and then making sure the tactical operations center is being operated correctly where we’re monitoring personnel and equipment at all times at each point,” said Maj. Nicolas Baker, the executive officer of 1-364th Trng. Spt. Btn., 189th Inf. Bde., who also serves as the lead of the unit’s fulltime staff.
The training event included an air insertion followed by squad-level day and night land navigation courses, convoy operations throughout a 12-hour period. While these training iterations took place, tactical operations staff also were responsible for ensuring accountability of personnel and unit equipment.
“With the [Exportable Combat Training Capabilities exercise] coming up, we wanted to make sure the basic levels were being met with familiarization before we actually go to be a lane OC/Ts, so we started planning this at least six months in advance where we worked with four other organizations for equipment usage [including] an air mission request with the aviation unit,” Baker said. “We also received assistance from the brigade when it came to reserving the land and check in to see if we needed help with anything.”
Personnel were grouped into squads prior to the event to mix more experienced Soldiers with relative newcomers to better foster their growth as instructors and trainees. This, as well as regular changes to how the battalion conducts its training scenarios, made for an educational experience in a dynamic environment.
“We normally change it up every year,” Norquist said. “We try to do our OC/T certifications three times a year, but this is the first time we have done overnight training to this extent in the three years I have been in command. Hopefully this becomes an annual event where we get to spend more nights in the field.”