CAMP RAVENNA, Ohio — Soldiers and Drill Sergeants of the 1st Battalion, 390th Regiment (1-390th), 3rd BDE, 95th Division have spent the “inter-months” between Fiscal Year Basic Combat Training mission cycles honing their skills to support 1st Engineer Brigade at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. A key component of that preparation has been the capstone Multiple Unit Training Assembly 8 (4 day) field training exercise held at Camp Ravenna, Ohio in May 2018. The battalion uses lessons learned provided by 1st Engineer Brigade during the last FY17 BCT mission cycle and nested company battle assemblies to culminate in a focus on perishable combat engineer tasks and team building. The 1-390th’s capstone field exercise ensured an internal stamp of excellence before releasing its Drill Sergeants to Fort Leonard Wood this summer and is now its benchmark for future Drill Sergeant pre-mission certification.
The 1-390th battalion staff and its active duty partner, 1st Engineer Brigade, shaped the FY18 training venue through a critical analysis of the FY17 BCT support. Both partners met on site at Fort Leonard Wood in the fall of 2017 to discuss areas of improvement and identify key focus areas that could be integrated into the battalion’s yearly training plan.
“1-390th Drill Sergeants are a key partner to their active duty counterparts and can be expected to be able to support any BCT phases … its more than pushing recruits from point A to B”, says Sgt. Maj. Thomas Moose, 1st EN BDE.
The 1-390th S-3 staff and company commander, with this thought in mind, incorporated lessons learned to focus on basic combat engineer tasks like mine detector training, demolition calculations, demo priming, demo breach layouts, and other combat engineer tasks. The battalion command also recognized the value of this training in the continuing reorganization from an engineer bridging unit to a combat engineer Drill Sergeant unit and the preparation of their Soldiers to attend Combat Engineer Duty Military Occupational Skill Qualification schooling.
“The battalion will use these lessons learned to not only focus on BCT support but to ensure our MOS reclassification students are prepared to pass the course”, said Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Harris, 1-390th Battalion CSM.
The 1-390th quickly pinpointed nested company-specific training with a culminating battalion field training exercise covering the identified tasks. For example, the joint team identified that Drill Sergeants during BCT were often called to retrain Soldiers who could not pass mine detector training on an individual basis in order to retest them. The joint team’s after action review identified this as critical weakness, with some Reserve Drill Sergeants needing their own remedial training by active duty counterparts. Likewise, the 1-390th interviewed its Soldiers returning from the combat engineer course on what subjects required more pre-school prep work. The battalion leadership quickly came to the consensus that a focus on more individual demolitions and breach layout training, demo calculations, mine detector training, and feedback on Drill Sergeant presentation of training was needed.
Photo by LTC Matthew Warner
The 1-390th S3 and S4 shop, working with company leadership, quickly revamped three key company-led battle assemblies during the inter-BCT cycle to focus on this training. During this resourcing, the battalion discovered there was severe resource shortage of inert Modernized Demolition Initiators components that are the inert replicates of the breach line main setups, ignitors, blasting caps, and demo charges used in to simulate live demo and transmission lines. The battalion staff worked with Training & Audiovisual Support Center on Fort Drum, to quickly identify the resources needed to support this training. Through internal scrounging and external resourcing, battalion level trainers were disseminated MDI training aids packaged into ammo can breach kits simulating the squad-breaching kits used to breach mine fields. 1-390th company trainers were provided tactile training aids that could be used in conjunction with their demo calculations, breach/cratering/steel demo types, and line and ring-main line routing. In addition, 1-390th Soldiers were tested on various demo knots, C4 priming, and other common individual demo tasks.
Companies nested this training with an eye on providing feedback to the trainers on their presentation skills. As noted, Drill Sergeants proficiency in an individual task is only half the challenge. Drill sergeants must be able to present the task to BCT recruits. Throughout, company and battalion level trainers received feedback from peers and leaders on the presentation of all training, ensuring content and delivery were acceptable.
Photo by Lt. Col. Matthew Warner
Finally, the 1-390ths capstone event at Camp Ravenna, Ohio challenged all Soldiers of the 1-390th. The battalion’s MUTA 8 combined combat engineer evaluative rollup with individual weapons qualification, field leader’s reaction course, and Military Operations in Urban Terrain stack drills. The battalion’s focus was not only to drive skill proficiency but to ensure all Soldiers of the 1-390th were engaged in team building exercises in a field environment outside of the normal routine of garrison staff functions. In the final analysis, the legwork the battalion staff and leaders did to capture lessons learned from last FY BCT cycle into realistic, tangible, field training is sure to raise the bar of proficiency and excellence for this FY BCT support to Fort Leonard Wood. Essayons! and Ka Yen Sa Hah! … “Keep the Flag Flying!”