FORT PICKETT, Va. –
Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Staunton-based 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team demonstrated a high level of proficiency that met and exceeded expectations for their “ready year” during annual training June 4-18, 2016, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. With two battalions on federal mobilization and multiple companies having conducted training center rotations earlier in the year, the brigade had a smaller footprint on the ground at Fort Pickett, but all of those Soldiers demonstrated they would have been ready to go if called.
“I didn’t think I would see this level of training,” said Col. Scott Smith, the commander of the 116th who succeeded Col. Bill Coffin June 5. “I think the brigade ended its ready year at the level we were expected, and our Soldiers clearly showed they would have been ready for a mobilization. There was a lot of great training going on.”
The Army has a multi-year cycle called the sustainable readiness model were units are moved through a stable, predictable cycle of training, deployment and post-deployment reset, Smith explained. During that cycle, training starts with a focus on individuals skills, then moves to collective training at the squad, platoon, company, battalion and brigade level. During annual training last year, the brigade conducted a large scale collective training exercise at Fort Drum that prepared them for their ready year in 2016.
While the entire brigade did not get a deployment mission, multiple units received mobilization orders and supported rotations at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana. The Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, along with the Suffolk-based Troop B, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment, mobilized in 2015 for security duty in the Central Command area of operations, and they will be replaced by the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment. Two firing batteries from the Hampton-based 1st Battalion,111th Field Artillery Regiment, and Company A, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion augmented the opposing force at JRTC during two different rotations along with elements of Company C and multiple forward support companies of the Danville-based 429th Brigade Support Battalion.
The remaining units training at Fort Pickett conducted a wide variety of training including individual weapons qualification, crew served weapons qualification, day and night squad live fire, call for indirect fire, unmanned aerial system flight operations, medical assistance, sustainment support, demolitions and situational training lanes focused on individual Soldier skills.
Smith said that one of the largest and most complex training events of the two weeks was the 36-hour field training exercise conducted by 2nd Squadron with support from multiple units throughout the brigade. During the FTX, the Headquarters Troop sling loaded a Humvee with a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 28th Combat Aviation Brigade, Troop A conducted reconnaissance operations, Troop C launched a night air assault via Black Hawks from the 28th CAB and moved into the live fire lanes on Pickett’s Infantry Platoon Battle Course. During the squadron’s operations, firing batteries from 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment and mortar crews from 2nd Squadron and 3rd Battalion provided indirect fire support, and the 429th provide sustainment support. For 29 hours of the FTX, the Bowling Green-based Detachment 2, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion provided aerial coverage with the Shadow unmanned aerial system.
The battalions also conducted events that maximized the training opportunities for the Soldiers available for AT.
The 429th conducted a field training exercise where they established a brigade support area in a tactical environment complete with entry control points and had an opposing force aggress against the site to test Soldiers abilities to react appropriately. Soldiers from the 429th with support from military police Soldiers from the 229th Military Police Company, 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion simulated a civilian medical assistance mission. The battalion also conducted a Truck Rodeo for motor transport operators from across the state that also included Soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division as part of an ongoing active Army and National Guard training partnership.
Soldiers from the 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion navigated the Warrior Lanes for two days with training the focused on basic Soldier skills like dismounted patrolling, reacting to enemy contact, providing basic first aid and requesting medical evacuation.
The rear detachments of 1st Battalion and 3rd Battalion conducted individual and crew served weapons qualification, and 1st Battalion also trained on domestic response capabilities like civil disturbance response and chain saw operation. Soldiers from 3rd Battalion were able to conduct squad level training including situational training lanes as well as day and night squad live fire.
“I was really impressed with the training planned and executed by the rear detachments of 1st and 3rd Battalions,” Smith said. “I was not expecting them to see that level of training, and it is a credit to their leaders for doing a great job in providing training opportunities for their Soldiers.”
With both firing batteries having already completed annual training, the Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery provided fire support during a drill weekend status and live fired nearly 2,200 rounds.
The 116th received maintenance and transportation support from the 529th CSSB during annual training that signals a new cooperation between the units. Smith said that with force structure changes that begin this year the brigade will loose transportation assets, and the 529th will be called upon in the future to fill the gap.
Smith also credited the great support from the Fort Pickett Maneuver Training Center staff in making annual training successful.
“The MTC staff really bent over backwards to make sure we had everything we needed,” Smith said. “There was no training that we wanted to do that we couldn’t conduct because of the great support they provided.”