News: Soldier reflects on first time NTC experience, Army
Story by Staff Sgt. Christopher McCullough
FORT IRWIN, Calif. – Doing something for the first time can elicit lifelong memories; conducting training at the National Training Center for the first time is an experience a soldier never forgets.
Spc. Devon Risner, an intelligence analyst assigned to the 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., experienced her first training rotation in January.
She had a big mission at NTC. She was responsible for deciphering the activities of guerilla forces, insurgents, criminal elements and an army on par with the U.S. Army.
Risner, a resident of Austin, Texas, made her way to 3-2 SBCT via Camp Humphreys, South Korea, following graduation from North Farmington High School in Michigan in 2009. She initially took on full-time work as a veterinary assistant while she went to college in the evenings.
"I did night school for a year," she said. "That just didn't work out. I changed my major like three or four times, so I decided I should take a year off and take a year off of school and I moved to Texas. When I couldn't find a job to save my life, I decided to join the Army.”
Risner was initially sent to Camp Humphreys where she joined the 532nd Military Intelligence Battalion, 501st Military Intelligence Brigade. Asked what she most enjoyed about her time there, she replied that making friends overseas is different than when stationed stateside.
"Anybody you work with or live with is your family," Risner said. "The friends you make there are more your friends than the ones you make in [stateside] garrison. They're just closer to you; more like a family.
After her initial tour of duty in Korea, Risner made her to way to the "Arrowhead" Brigade in November 2012 where she put what she had learned with the 532nd MI to good use.
"What I'm doing right now is the exact same thing I did in Korea," Risner said. "I did my job there in a military intelligence unit; it gave me a lot of training toward working with this stuff."
Risner also had field experience from her brigade’s earlier exercise at Yakima Training Center, Wash., last October.
"Yakima was like practice for here,” she said.
Quite possibly the biggest challenge of Yakima was the fact she was a newlywed married to a soldier in her brigade.
"Yakima was terrible," Riser said. "Being dual-military, my husband was gone 40 days before I even made it to the field; we didn't get to see each other and there was a six-day window between the time I was going to the field and he was coming home. I know that didn't start out well for us, especially being newly married, as we have not spent that much time together."
Risner managed, though, and it wasn't long before she and her husband found themselves at NTC for the brigade's training rotation. Amenities available to soldiers at NTC are minimal at best. Fortunately, Risner had practiced for this.
"When I was in Yakima, I can honestly say I was struggling," Risner said. "But when I came out here and they told us we would go fourteen days without a shower, I kind of looked at it like a challenge."
Risner's resilience carries over to her job where she is responsible for tracking the enemy and helping build the big picture for her senior leadership.
"I give them an idea of what the battlefield looks like and what they can do next to approach the enemy," Riser said.
Her attention to detail has impressed her shift supervisor, 1st Lt. Anders Wengstrand, the brigade's night-shift officer-in-charge for current operations, who called her "organized" and "hard working."
"I think her strength would be her ability to take down information well and hold onto that and do it so accurately," said Wengstrand, a native of Trondheim, Norway. "That's one of those things that is so vital given all the information going back and forth."
Risner's time at NTC is drawing to a close and very soon she and her comrades from 3-2 SBCT will be relieved by soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division, out of Fort Hood, Texas.
Asked what advice she might have the soldiers relieving her, she said to "embrace the suck together."
"Every time you go to the field is always going to be a different experience," Risner said, "but some of the advice I have been giving my soldiers is that we're all embracing the suck together. You can be miserable by yourself or you can try to have fun and be miserable with everybody else. When you talk about it with other people, sometimes it makes it a little more fun together."