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NEWS | June 7, 2024

Total Army forces train National Guard units, ahead of future deployment

By Staff Sgt. David Lietz 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command

“Our intent during their two weeks on the ground here is to build proficiency in platoon, battalion and brigade staff (readiness ahead of) real world missions,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Steve Chandler, Brigade Command Sergeant Major, 177th Armored Brigade, Camp Shelby, Mississippi. “What we do as observer coach trainers is execute situational training exercises.”

Soldiers assigned to seven battalions of the 256th Infantry Brigade, Louisiana National Guard, who are preparing for an upcoming deployment, are the focus of these training exercises, during Exportable Combat Training Capability 24-01 throughout the months of May and June 2024.

OC/Ts like Capt. Rofael Watts, Rear detachment commander, 3-348th Training Support Battalion, Jacksonville, Florida, evaluated and accessed the Soldiers during different training scenarios.

He brought his skills as a civilian mental health counselor to his job as an OC/T.

“I’m a licensed mental health counselor. I work in a prison setting. I’ve been working in it for 12 years. My job is crisis intervention, treatment development and case management,” said Watts. “As an Army officer, I have to be detail oriented. When I see a client, I must look at their posture, weight, and physical features to see if there is anything going wrong and determine if my client is a victim. You must go into every evaluation with a fresh perspective.”

He uses the same observation skills working with Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers.

“I look at their appearance and demeanor because there may be some things going on with them,” said Watts.

Watt’s motivation to continue serving in the U.S. Army Reserve comes from his family.

“I’m motivated. My dad served during the Vietnam War. I’m motivated by my family because they know what I do. They’re proud when they see me in uniform. I’m motivated by their appreciation for what I do,” explained the 16-year Army Reserve veteran.

And Watts believes that everyone should serve in the military for at least two years.

“The military gives people direction and structure. It gives people some balance and connections and you make lifelong friends,” said Watts. “And the networking system is phenomenal. There are also mentorships. If I need some information or guidance, I can reach out to them. Sometimes young people don’t feel comfortable reaching out to their parents. Who better than a mentor.”

During the XCTC, communication flow is the focus of Staff Sgt. David Lewis, OC/T, 3-348th Training Support Battalion, Jacksonville, Florida.

“My task is to show up on site and see how they are prepared to issue and receive information and distribute it down to the lowest level and make sure they have all their communication equipment,” said Lewis. “We’re tasked to report back to our higher (command) to inform them of where the unit is (in their training) and where they should be. We develop feedback and put together an analysis. Our intent is to help Soldiers self-discover through their training and mission.”

Lewis is the first member of his family to serve in the military. He joined to serve a bigger purpose and continues to learn from younger Soldiers.

“I did five years of active duty and 14 years in the Army Reserve. I continue to serve today and mentor the younger generation while also learning from them on new ways to complete the tasks and mission,” said Lewis.

In addition to OC/Ts, Army Reserve mechanics were busy turning wrenches and conducting vehicle maintenance at the motor pool, so they can return trucks to the exercise.

“During XCTC we field and maintain OC/T trucks, provide water and ice and conduct vehicle recovery services,” said Staff Sgt. Roby Morgan, mechanic with the 3-349th Logistical Support Battalion, Camp Shelby, Mississippi, while working quickly to install a new ball joint on a Humvee.

“It’s extremely important for the OC/Ts to have reliable vehicles during the exercise. Our most common repair is the window washer pumps. It’s a safety concern because of all the dust on the road. If you are on a convoy with dirty windows you cannot see,” said Morgan.

In the field, a group of Soldiers moved three cannons into position in preparation for an artillery mission.

“We have an M-119 Alpha Three Howitzer. I control and coordinate fire missions as to where they shoot, when they shoot and targeting the enemy,” said Staff Sgt. Carlos Delgado, Fire Direction Center Chief, Alpha Battery, 1-141st Field Artillery Battalion, 256th Infantry Brigade, Jackson Barracks, Louisiana. “We bring fire support protection of convoy movements that allow Soldiers to move through the battlefield. We are also on standby for fire support missions.”

Working together, Army Reserve OC/Ts are making sure their National Guard partners are mission ready for future deployments.

“Our military force is a gigantic chain linked together. If you are not doing your part to keep everyone well-oiled, you fail,” said Lewis. “We are here to observe, coach and train.”