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NEWS | July 16, 2023

The 87th Training Division is empowering commanders at WAREX 2023

By Major William Wratee 4th Expeditionary Sustainment Command

The Warrior Exercise (WAREX), is a large-scale training exercise that replicates real-world missions. This year, under the guidance of the exercise commander and the 87th Training Division (TD), WAREX took an innovative approach. Referred to informally as the "gym/personal trainer" model, it provided commanders with tailored support to enhance their units' readiness.

The first step in this unique approach was establishing a designated time and location, similar to "opening the gym," where commanders could test their soldiers and staff. From June 10th to June 24th this year, Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, served as the host for WAREX. The 87th TD then offered personalized training based on doctrine and aligned with each unit's specific needs and objectives. Subject matter experts conducted classes, while Observer/Coach Trainers (OC/Ts) advised and assisted commanders, soldiers, and staff throughout the exercise.

Prior to the exercise, commanders were required to assess their units and identify areas for improvement. For example, a commander confident in their staff's abilities but wanting to test their operational skills without electronics could request the 87th TD to simulate an electronic blackout scenario during the training. The training command would then design and evaluate the staff's response based on the commander's assessment, and OC/Ts would provide candid feedback on the team's successes and areas for improvement.

Brig. Gen. Kelly Hagenbeck, the 87th TD commander, strongly supports this commander-driven training model. According to Hagenbeck, "Readiness is a holistic effort. It encompasses training from battle assemblies, professional military education, special missions, and annual training. Commanders are in the best position to recommend what they should be tested on during WAREX."

The 87th TD’s approach aligns with military training doctrine. Army Doctrine Publication (ADP) 7-0, Training Units and Developing Leaders, places the responsibility of achieving and sustaining training proficiency on commanders. They must conduct long-range planning to develop and sustain skills and capabilities. Commanders must also maintain constant collaboration throughout the training process to ensure that training plans align with their intent. Therefore, the 87th TD wanted Col. Russell Chambers, the 211th Regional Support Group (RSG) commander, to play a significant role in shaping WAREX.

The 211th RSG's mission focuses on managing the reception, staging, onward movement, and integration of mobilizing forces and providing mission command during homeland security, homeland defense, and civil support missions. With these diverse operational responsibilities, a regional support group plays various roles in sustainment operations, ranging from managing base camps to defense operations.

The 211th RSG and its subordinate units served as the primary training audience for WAREX 2023.

Col. Chambers emphasized the importance of collaboration within the RSG to accomplish its mission. He stated, "A regional support group must be prepared to conduct separate but interconnected functions to support homeland security, homeland defense, and civil support missions. Communication, problem-solving, and security were the areas I wanted to test during WAREX. He collaborated with the 87th TD to assess his staff's communication and problem-solving abilities by simulating his absence through a fictional death during the exercise. The OC/Ts then evaluated the staff's capability to carry out the mission for a period of three days while adapting to and assisting new leadership.

Col. Chambers commended the 87th TD staff and leadership for empowering commanders and noted that commanders must clearly understand their soldiers and the areas that require improvement. "Ensuring that we drive training in a direction the commander agrees with makes sense. Doctrine will always be the foundation of training, but commanders will always be responsible for executing the mission. The 87th TD understands that, and I cannot say enough positive things about their support during this process."

The 87th TD successfully created an environment that mirrors real-world operations, empowering commanders to shape the exercise objectives. The honest assessments and valuable insights the OC/Ts provided enabled commanders to identify areas of strength and areas requiring further development within their teams. Returning to their home stations, units can use the lessons learned from WAREX to inform future training and foster continuous improvement.

Command Sgt. Maj. Tyrone Walker, the senior enlisted advisor for the 211th RSG, reiterated the importance of exercises like WAREX for Army Reserve soldiers. He emphasized that exercises like WAREX are "where soldiers come to gain trust and confidence in equipment, doctrine, their leaders, and, more importantly, themselves." 

He also stressed the significance of coming to WAREX prepared. "We teach ourselves and rehearse during our battle assemblies throughout the year... WAREX is not the place to come to teach yourself; it's the place where you come to test yourself."

WAREX 2024 is projected to remain at Fort McCoy while expanding to Fort Dix, New Jersey.