News: Arrowhead Soldiers act as realistic enemy for reserve counterparts
Story by Staff Sgt. Christopher McCullough
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Throughout July and August, Soldiers from 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment "Warhorse," teamed up with Minnesota Army National Guardsmen from 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry Regiment "Red Bulls" at the Orchard Combat Training Center, south of Boise, Idaho.
Over the two months, 1-14 Cav. and 2-136 CAB acted as opposing forces during an eXportable Combat Training Capability exercise and faced off against Soldiers from 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, Idaho Army National Guard. They were evaluated by active duty Soldiers from 1st Army Division West.
The XCTC is a program used by the Army National Guard since 2005, and has been used to train more than 11 combat and functional brigades, according to SRI International, the prime contractor who manages planning, execution and recovery for the exercise.
It incorporates the use of OPFOR who represent the enemy in military training exercises to establish a more realistic training experience. It provides the training unit, referred to simply as BLUFOR, a more realistic sense of what they may encounter in a real-life battle scenario.
According to Army regulations, "the OPFOR program is intended to be a 'sparring partner' for commanders. Use of OPFOR in training events is intended to provide realistic field training through operations against a non-cooperative, uncompromising opponent that uses tactics, doctrine and equipment representative of a composite of forces that could be encountered in current or future combat operations."
For 1-14 Cav. that meant a small team of their Soldiers would conduct small-arms ambushes, which is what U.S. forces saw in Afghanistan and Iraq, and would detonate mock IEDs for more complex ambushes. As well, their anti-tank teams would carry out traditional attacks using hunter-killer tactics, which paired the smaller Strykers with a tank section who they would work with to outmaneuver the BLUFOR. The Strykers were used to locate the enemy and assist while 2-136 CAB's tanks destroyed the enemy vehicles.
"Our primary objective out here is to help the 116th brigade commander achieve his training objectives," said Command Sgt. Maj. Sean Mayo, Bridgeport, Conn., native and 1-14 Cav. command sergeant major. "So whatever he's asked for, we've tried to replicate out here."
The "Warhorse" and "Red Bulls" Soldiers conducted both mounted and dismounted operations that incorporated remote controlled improvised explosive devices, vehicle-borne IEDs, and complex attacks.
"The uncertain nature of combat now, what it's morphed into, is you're looking at a hybrid threat," Mayo explained. "You could be fighting a peer to near-peer enemy that has tanks and armored personnel carriers one day, and the next day you're dealing with an insurgency or something similar of that nature, so you have to be prepared for everything."
Being prepared, in this instance, also meant using anti-tank capabilities from Company C, 52d Infantry Regiment (Anti-Tank).
"Those infantrymen have been instrumental in the success of (3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team) ... because they're basically the best tank killing organization that the brigade commander has," Mayo said. "So the anti-tank company, they have become tremendously proficient at killing tanks with their (Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided) missiles."
Capt. Craig Isaacson, a Bloomington, Minn., native and the company commander for Company C, 2-136 CAB, explained the benefits of having his unit train as OPFOR at OCTC versus training individually in Minnesota.
"While we have a great training center back home, we're restricted to section-size lanes for our tank companies," said Isaacson. "Here our Soldiers are going to learn how to do some real maneuver training in training areas we don't have access to on a routine basis as a Guard unit. They'll be able to walk away with the ability to maneuver, see what XCTC is like, and play the OPFOR side, which I hope will help make them better Soldiers at next year's XCTC."
This isn't the first time an active duty unit has worked alongside the National Guard. Active duty Soldiers worked closely with their National Guard and Reserve forces during conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Training opportunities between the three components are becoming increasingly more common as the Army puts its Total Force Policy into practice; the Total Force Policy being the Army's course of action for the integration of the Army's active component and reserve components as a singular force.
"As we saw in the last couple of conflicts, National Guard and active component Soldiers are going to be fighting side-by-side, so this helps build that bridge and improves upon that relationship," Mayo said.
Isaacson agreed, stating that his Soldiers wanted to be there, train hard, and perfect their craft to be the best professionals possible.
"Coming out here is exposing us to the active component and what they do, and it allows us to showcase some of our skills," Isaacson said. "That way we can come out here, be a valuable asset and a member of the team."