98th conducts FTX at A.P. Hill

09/04/2012   By Lt. Col. Chris Berger 3rd Brigade, 98th Training Division (IET)
 

Fort A.P. Hill, Va. — Col. Dan Reid, brigade commander, 3rd Brigade, 98th Training Division (IET), headquartered in Salem, Va. directed his brigade staff in February 2011, to begin planning a brigade FTX. He wanted to exercise several of the brigade’s METL tasks to include mobilization, conduct training, command and control, and force protection in a realistic and challenging environment. During the following 12 months, the brigade staff developed the concept of operation and went through the military decision making process and developed the key events of the exercise and how the operation would unfold. 

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B Co 1/317th receives top honors as the best company in 3rd Brigade, 98th Training Division during a field training exercise at Fort A.P. Hill. Photo by Command Sgt. Major Douglas Rankin, 98th Training Division (IET).

The brigade and battalion staffs worked closely together during this planning and preparation process to build a better training exercise that maximized the 96 hours for 365 Soldiers on site. The exercise included conducting the required annual suicide prevention training and a brigade mass medical that improved the brigade’s medical readiness.

For the first 48 hours the staffs established a fully functional brigade Tactical Operation Center (TOC), receiving reports from the battalions and exerting the command and control aspect of the exercise. Maj. Lisa Kelley, the brigade S1, exercised the command and control elements of the exercise. She indicated that the required level of reporting personnel accountability was an initial challenge for some battalions as their footprint is fairly expansive requiring travel from multiple locations up to seven hours for some companies. As with any good plan, modifications were necessary to adjust for changes such as range locations and closing of roads that altered route movement. Another purpose of this exercise was the ability to react and communicate quickly and effectively to these changes throughout the brigade.

Soldiers from 3rd Brigade, 98th Training Division (IET) egress from a wood line during a during a field training exercise at A.P. Hill. The training included mobilization, conduct training, command and control, and force protection in a realistic and challenging environment.

Photo by Command Sgt. Major Douglas Rankin, 98th Training Division (IET).

During the warrior competition each company, composed of 12 to 18 organic members, maneuvered through six events to determine the best company within the brigade. These events included a hand grenade assault course followed by a live hand grenade course, a written and a team land navigation course, a M16 qualification range competition, a combat assault course, and a 5k forced ruck march.

These events were not only focused at company level. They also included a myriad of staff functions such as the command and control and logistical support as mentioned above. Paramount in all the training was safety and accountability of all equipment and personnel. These requirements were captured in the reporting process. Lt. Col. John Phillips, the brigade operations officer, echoed the commander’s emphasis that this exercise centered on three components:

  1. the Soldier, by testing their competency skills during combat operation.
  2. the staff, by engaging them to develop, plan and execute these operations.
  3. the commanders, by command and control of their Soldiers in a field environment.

As the 16 teams maneuvered through the competition, each station reported their results to the TOC, updating the command boards and providing a real time update to the commander and his staff.

An enormous amount of pride was exhibited as these teams competed and team members encouraged each other. As teams finished this part of the exercise with high fives, laughter could be heard. It was clearly evident that bonds were strengthened and the exercise objectives were met by the command.

The following day the brigade conducted Operation Warrior Eagle that focused on a command and control exercise for both the brigade staff and the battalion commanders. This exercise allowed force-on-force operations with the insertion of high value targets that tested the skills of our MPs. The skills tested include controlling checkpoints, processing EPWs and squad small unit movements. The battalion commanders directed operations such as hasty recons and patrols as coordinated through the S3 maneuver battle captains to engage the opposing forces.

The evening closed with a brigade awards ceremony that recognized the top performing companies during the competition. Individual Soldiers were also recognized for their achievement and contribution during the exercise. Staff Sgt. Gregory Hahn of B Co., 1/417th received an AAM as the best marksman in the brigade and B Co., 1/317th received top honors as the best company in 3rd Brigade, 98th Training Division (IET).

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