News: The Brain of the Beast - Commanding the Brigade Troops Battalion
Story by Capt. John Farmer
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Ala. - The 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division is a conglomeration of several branches of the Army; infantrymen, medics, computer techs, scouts, and cooks. Soldiers hail from all corners of the United States; from the sandy beaches of Miami, to the rainy forests of Seattle, to the scorching deserts of Arizona.
The Soldiers of the 1-25th SBCT, known as the “Arctic Wolves” are a mix-mash of personalities, nationalities, religions, and political view-points.
No one within the Arctic Wolves understands diversity and the unique nature of different units better than the Brigade Troops Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Michael Braun.
Whereas most other battalions in the brigade are generally homogenous in their make-up, the Brigade Troops Battalion, a.k.a. the “Grey Wolves,” is comprised of five companies with five completely different job descriptions and mission training requirements. Headquarters Company provides brigade-level command and control, the engineers conduct route clearance and demolitions, the anti-tank company focuses its efforts on high-intensity conflict and defeating the enemy in a more conventional manner, the signal company provides radio, computer and network support for the rest of the brigade, and the military intelligence company provides detailed analysis about the enemy and how best to fight.
Managing such a unique organization is something Braun said he looks forward to with enthusiasm, and takes pride knowing his Soldiers are the ones who enable this brigade to successfully fight with their specialized skill sets.
“My job is to provide the enablers to the other battalions in order for them to achieve their mission. My mission is to provide well trained Soldiers that will be an asset to those formations,” Braun said. “We’re all part of the same brigade; we’re all fighting on the same team.”
Braun recognizes that the BTB is nothing like the other battalions in the brigade,
“The brigade is called the Arctic Wolves, and I like to think of the BTB as the brain of the Wolf,” said Braun. “We may not be the tip of the spear, but we tell you where to stick the spear.”
With a strong focus on enabling the rest of the brigade to succeed, Braun and his team are committed to providing the best trained and best qualified Soldiers possible.
Braun recognizes the longevity of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have caused erosion in some of the basic Soldiering skills in which men like he and Command Sgt. Maj. Gatts were extremely proficient during peace time,
“We’ve been at war for over 10 years now and a lot of the skills I was used to and the CSM was used to during the peace time army have deteriorated a bit,” Braun said.
His focus now is to come back to the basics of what it truly means to be a Soldier.
“Our focus is on the fundamentals: shoot, move and communicate. If Soldiers can do that, then they’ll definitely be successful at their jobs. Physical fitness is a big part of that as well. We’re trying to keep the Soldiers involved in physical training that’s interesting but also beneficial to them. We have a lot of emphasis on marksmanship training. Every Soldier in the battalion is going to qualify whether it’s rifles, machine guns, or pistols. Every Soldier should be comfortable with their weapon and be able to use it effectively. It’s our bread and butter,” Braun said.
Not only do the Soldiers and their leaders face the challenges of training on the basic Soldier skills, Braun is extremely focused on the challenges specifically associated with living in Alaska.
“We take pride as “Arctic Wolves,” but we haven’t operated in an arctic environment in over a year, and that’s going to be a big challenge. I told the Soldiers they are soldiering in the toughest place in the world; due to of the extreme temperatures and the remoteness of this post,” Braun said.
Training requirements and the harsh landscape aside, Braun is keenly aware of the fact that every unit, regardless of its size, needs a strong sense of identity if it is to succeed. Braun will be the first to admit that he won’t be able to succeed without the help of officers, NCOs and Soldiers under his command. The man he’s most excited to work with, is his right-hand-man, Command Sgt. Maj. Gatts, the senior enlisted advisor for the battalion.
“When I found out he was coming to be the CSM here, it was like winning the lottery. He is totally focused on the Soldiers. You look up the definition of command sergeant major in the dictionary and you’ll see a picture of CSM Gatts,” Braun said. “He always puts the welfare of the Soldiers first and he knows the right way to do things. He’s committed to building a team. He’s only been on the job about a week and a half and he’s already has all sorts of great plans he’s starting to implement and that’s the mark of a true professional. He’s got a vision and he knows how to make it work.
Braun said he is eagerly looking forward to the challenges associated with the privilege of command.
As with any job, there’s a time to work and a time to relax, and Lt. Col. Braun said he’s very much looking forward to taking advantage of the time he has up here in Alaska.
“We’re pretty fortunate to be in Alaska. Tourists spend thousands of dollars to come here and to have the opportunity to live up here is awesome. I want to make the most of it. I’m looking forward to experiencing everything up here.”