Overcoming A Year Like No Other

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3-414th TF McCoy Soldiers completing their ambush OPFOR mission; Left to right, SFC Hall, LTC Hewitt, SSG Park, SGT Voung.

Being able to provide skilled and motivated instructors for Operation Agile Leader (OAL), while keeping Soldiers and their family healthy and safe, were the priorities of the 3-414th CST BN moving forward during our expected busy summer season of annual training. After the news of Cadet Summer Training being cancelled and the implementation of OAL, the 3-414th’s annual training consisted of supporting different OAL missions for Cadet Command, and the United States Military Academy (USMA). A major step in the operations process is to constantly go through the cycle of planning, preparing, executing and assessing to see where we stand; areas to improve in the future; how to refocus our actions to align with the mission; and how to consistently keep the priorities 1st Brigade, 104th Division and 3-414th had set forward at the start of this planning process.

This was most prevalent for Soldier’s safety concerns while balancing the demands and challenges of their civilian careers. Many of our Soldiers were required by their civilian employers to self-quarantine for two weeks after their return from out of state training. 3-414th filled as many missions as possible, but we still were short on manpower. With the support and understanding of higher HQ, some of Taskforce (TF) OAL were reassigned. Yet other OAL missions were cancelled entirely because of dramatic increases in COVID-19 cases across the country.

Sgt. 1st Class Hall during an OPFOR mission.

 

Our first mission was USMA COVID 1, from June 28, 2020, to July 11, 2020. The mission at USMA tasked Sgt. Evans, Sgt. Ferguson, Sgt. Johnson and Sgt. McCullough to provide CQ duty for more than 90 Cadets and Soldiers who tested positive for novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). For many, this was their first encounter with someone who was positive for COVID-19. Our Soldiers demonstrated flexibility upon arrival at USMA and quickly adapted to the fluidity of the mission. Displaying a high level of professionalism, they worked diligently with the cadre to stay informed, while maintaining and open lines of communication. Our Soldiers blazed a trail as the first set of Soldiers to support this unique mission in a COVID-19 operating environment.

Sgt. Adams and Spc. Jeffers were our next round of Soldiers selected to provide medic 68W support at Fort Knox, Ky. Expecting to support the mission as 68Ws, Sgt. Adams and Spc. Jeffers expressed that there was still a lot to learn from this new OAL approach during COVID-19. They remained flexible and used this experience to gain knowledge and see what can be implemented back at our unit. They were able to share what they learned during OAL in the unit’s drafting of its COVID-19 mitigation strategy, focused on the return to in-person battle assembly (BA).

SSG Park and SFC Hall after TF McCoy OPFOR mission.

 

Next in line was Task Force (TF) McCoy with 11 Soldiers serving as the opposing force element for situational training exercise (STX) lanes training at Fort McCoy, Wis. This OAL mission supported the training of 89 Cadets that were evaluated in their leadership skills and potential to lead others. While there were many logistical issues, our team remained flexible to the needs of the cadre. Our Soldier performed above and beyond expectations, worked exceptionally together, and came up with creative and practical ways to enhance cadet training, while mitigating COVID-19.

Master Sgt. Clark, Sgt. 1st Class Bradford and Staff Sgt. Laeger supported TF Ripley, serving as an opposing force (OPFOR) element for situational training exercise (STX) lanes training at Camp Ripley, MN during 10-20 August 2020. This OAL mission trained more than 300 Cadets. In any training event of this size logistics and communications are always a challenge. Our team, however, overcame adversity and established a standard of excellence for others to follow.

Ft McCoy zero range.

 

A special thanks to our training NCO Staff: Sgt. Carpenter, Sgt. 1st Class Lee, Master Sgt. Ziolko, Mr. Kayama and Mr. Campos, who reacted to all the demands of the planning process and ensured Soldiers were ready to go.

3-414th BN is proud of all the Soldiers who adapted to mission demands, overcame the challenges presented, and acted in the highest of professionalism that reflected greatly upon their unit and themselves. These Soldiers took on all 2020 could bring and proved themselves Army Strong!

  • USMA Soldiers: Sgt. Evans, Sgt. Ferguson, Sgt. Johnson and Sgt. McCullough
  • TF Fort Knox Soldiers: Sgt. Adams and Spc. Jeffers
  • TF Ripley Soldiers: Master Sgt. Clark, Sgt. 1st Class Bradford and Staff Sgt. Laeger
  • TF McCoy Soldiers: Sgt. Cabotage, Sgt. Craig, Sgt. 1st Class Hall, Staff Sgt. Motyko, Sgt. 1st Class Nelson, Staff Sgt. Park, 1st Lt. Patin, Sgt. 1st Class Wainscott, Staff Sgt. Esguerra, Sgt. Heitsmith, Staff Sgt. Scarey
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