Plans for the National Guard’s annual training are looking more collaborative after social distancing themes the past few years.
While COVID-19 pandemic support in their respective states continues to be an ongoing mission, some of the 54 units have plans for large-scale, combined deployment readiness training this year.
Pennsylvania’s 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division is sending more than 3,500 soldiers to the NTC at Fort Irwin, California, where they’ll practice offensive and defensive combat operations.
Close to 600 soldiers from Tennessee’s 30th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 230th Sustainment Brigade are also attending the mass deployment training at NTC, where they’ll provide logistics and supply support for the 56th. The team is equipped to move ammo, food and fuel in a setting Lt. Col. Shawn Richardson, 30th CSSB commander, said is as close to a deployed environment as you can get without being deployed.
“At NTC, members get a renewed sense and a healthy understanding of tasks they haven’t used in a while,” he said. “It’s all about getting back to the basics.”
Back to basics
Guardsmen from Georgia’s 277th Maintenance Company will also use AT to get back to the basics and put their skills to the test. They’ll travel to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, in support of the Army Reserve’s 206th Transportation Company’s pre-mobilization training.
As the 206th accomplishes drivers’ training, 277th Company commander 1st Lt. Ashley Sandford said her team would be there to ensure unserviceable vehicles won’t impede the mission at hand.
“To be able to do their job both in a field environment and a garrison, training environment is something that never happens,” she said. “Also, being ready to go in less than 90 days is something else they’ll get out of this experience.”
Assembling at the NTC isn’t an opportunity that comes around often. Especially for units outside of brigade combat teams, said Utah Army National Guard Maj. Adam Ashworth, an administrative officer with the 65th Field Artillery Brigade. For those units, the NTC can send a support package or Exportable Combat Training Capability to designated locations for brigades like the 65th to also get battle drills in.
Ashworth is part of the planning committee for Utah’s first eXportable Combat Training Capability (XCTC) at the Orchard Training Center near Boise, Idaho, where they’re also hosting a combined arms training event.
“It just sets in motion the ability for us to use the organic units that are part of us and gives other National Guard units across the country an opportunity to jump on board,” Ashworth said.
Close to 3,000 National Guard soldiers are expected to attend XCTC in Idaho this summer. In addition to the 1,200 soldiers coming from Utah, soldiers from California and North Carolina will also join the three-week-long exercise.
International annual training
Guam’s National Guard will travel to Camp Roberts, California, where another XCTC is occurring this year. The island’s 105th Troop Command encompasses a range of mission sets, from engineering to the unit’s band. As the command’s 1224th Engineer Support Company prepares for its upcoming federal mobilization, its Hotel Company, 29th Infantry Brigade Company Team, 29th Brigade Support Battalion, will perform the XCTC rotation in support of the 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment, also from Guam.
Lt. Col. David P. Santos Jr., 105th Troop commander, said the unit also is focusing on its community mission with natural disaster training ahead of Guam’s typhoon season.
“The 105th Troop Command is designed to support all three mission sets that we’re charged with as guardsmen,” Santos said. “Federal, state and community missions.”
The 109th Airlift Squadron with the Minnesota Air National Guard’s 133rd Airlift Wing is taking its AT to the Pacific for Valiant Shield. The joint-service exercise occurs every two years in Joint Region Marianas with operating areas that include Naval Base Guam and Andersen Air Force Base, plus surrounding islands like Rota, Saipan and the Republic of Palau.
Pilots and maintainers from the 109th will travel to the exercise in their C-130 Hercules aircraft and provide tactical airlift operations to support joint all-domain warfare training. The “Herc” will perform supply and equipment movement for all of the branches through different methods, including real-world airdrops and specialized refueling operations.
More than that, Maj. Brennan Coatney, Minnesota’s mission commander for this exercise, said training in an unfamiliar environment is also an excellent practice for overseas and home operations.
“Outside of a big base complex where everything is solved for them, it’s going to better prepare airmen for contingency operations involving national defense,” he said.
Pre-AT process includes ‘cultural awareness’
Other National Guard units performing AT overseas include soldiers from Wisconsin’s 112th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment who will provide media support for exercise African Lion in Morocco.
Colorado’s 169th Field Artillery Brigade will attend DEFENDER-Europe 2022 this summer – a multinational exercise in the Baltic region. Capt. Remington Henderson, 169th FAB Public Affairs officer, said foreign-partner relationships are another vital aspect guardsmen learn as they train overseas.
“A very big part of the training process leading up to this exercise is actually cultural awareness,” he said. “Having to work with partner states and countries is a very different thing, so we’re continuing to build those relationships even at the lowest-level soldier.”Read comments