FORT A.P. HILL, Virginia –
The Virginia National Guard’s 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute practiced their adaptability skills when Operation Allies Welcome came to Fort Pickett, where the RTI is based, late last summer. With an influx of thousands of Afghan evacuees and support personnel, cadre and staff of the 183rd quickly developed and executed contingency plans to move their courses and training events to other Virginia facilities, making use of sites like Fort A.P. Hill and the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
“We’re a Regional Training Institute, used to operating from one location, but now we’re more like an expeditionary training unit,” said Col. Charles B. Martin Jr., commander of the 183rd RTI, on the adjustment.
Each of the three battalions within the RTI are responsible for different courses, Martin said. First battalion covers infantry training, 2nd Battalion covers transportation courses and 3rd Battalion includes the Virginia National Guard’s warrant and commissioned officer training programs. Each battalion tackled the change based on the individual requirements of their respective courses.
“The battalions are first and foremost in the planning, but the staff is also doing what they can to support,” Martin said.
An 11C Indirect Fire Infantryman Course, slated for last November and taught by 1st Battalion, was moved to Fort A.P. Hill. Lt. Col. Rick Harrison, the battalion’s commander, said his Soldiers were determined to hold the course, no matter what.
“I spoke to my guys before the course and they said, ‘Sir, one way or another, this course is going to go and we’re going to make it happen,’” Harrison said. “They really stepped up and they made it happen.”
Moving the course to Fort A.P. Hill was not without challenges, but Harrison said those challenges only served to strengthen his team.
“It’s actually been amazing,” Harrison said. “For a lot of guys trying something new is always a challenge, but they did a really good job. I’m really happy and I’m really proud of my guys […] and it’s actually been really good. I think they’ve learned a lot and a lot of the Soldiers have grown more confident in their jobs.”
Master Sgt. Justin Owen, chief instructor for 1st Battalion, 183rd RTI, said moving the course to A.P. Hill was the most logical choice.
“We had to look at different options and one option was Fort A.P. Hill,” Owen said. “It’s right up the road, still in Virginia, so we came here, and we did just as well, if not better than we would have at Fort Pickett.”
With a change of venue comes a change of process, and Owen said Fort A.P. Hill was incredibly accommodating as his team adapted to the new environment.
“They’ve worked with us even though we’ve sometimes stumbled,” Owen said. “They’ve completely bent over backward for the 183rd and helped us to run a successful course.”
Over the next several months, the OAW mission is expected to wind down at Fort Pickett, and RTI courses will once again call Fort Pickett home.
“I’m just so proud of these guys,” Martin said, “The full timers, the staff, they’ve all really stepped up in a big way.”