FORT STEWART, Ga. - The Desert Rogues have once again taken up the Army’s standard and advanced across lines no one else has crossed. This time the advancement they spearheaded for the Army wasn’t on the battlefield, but in their role of re-shaping the Army’s operational force generation.
The 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment “Desert Rogues,” 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, is currently operating as the opposing force for the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Tennessee National Guard’s, exportable combat training center (XCTC) decisive action training event, located in Camp Shelby, Mississippi.
The XCTC program has been used by Army reserve components since 2005 as a resource in training and preparing RC units so that they can meet the Army’s force generation requirements. The XCTC is notable for its mobile capabilities, as well as being operated by civilian contractors, according to the programs website online.
Prior to the attacks on Sept. 11, the Army’s active component was highly involved with enabling the training requirements of its reserve components. However, with the increased operational tempo during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was not possible for the Army’s active component to meet their own force generation requirements while also facilitating the RCs training requirements.
That was when the XCTC was first developed, yet now we can see the process has come around full-turn.
“For the first time since they started doing XCTC, and really the first time in an even longer time, the opposing forces [for RC training] are being role-played by an active duty unit, the 1-64th AR,” said Lt. Col. Sean Kuester, commander, 1-64th AR, 2nd ABCT.
This “return to normal” is significant in a number of ways, proof of which can be seen in the high level of attention the exercise is slated to receive by visiting senior leaders from Forces Command and First Army.
The return to normalcy is not the only significance of this historical event however. This training is also a large step in the continuing effort to operate under the ‘Total Army Concept.’
This concept is codified in the Army Total Force Policy, signed by Secretary of the Army John McHugh, Sept. 4, 2012. Essentially this policy recognizes that the Army cannot be effective without both its active component and two reserve components, the National Guard and the Army Reserve, being fully mission capable, which in part means that each component needs to work together and ensure that, across the board, all of their subordinate units in are at the same, highly-trained level expected out of all U.S. military forces.
While it is important to note how this training is helping the Army grow in the larger sense, it is equally important to take note of the great things happening within the two units themselves. The value of this training exercise for the Rogues cannot be overestimated.
“This is a great experience for us because it is allowing us to continue to hone our skills as we move towards gunnery in August and Sept.,” Kuester said.
Of course, the main purpose of the training exercise is to build-up and validate the 278th ACR’s capabilities.
“The 278th will leave here at a much higher level of readiness than when they arrived,” Kuester said.
Staff Sgt. R. Jay Phelps, the senior leader of the Sniper Detachment, 278th ACR, echoed this sentiment while conducting joint training with the 1-64th AR’s sniper section.
“Working with [the 1-64th AR] has been great because they bring the experience that comes with doing this kind of thing every single day, where as we don’t get to do this as much [in the National Guard],” Phelps said. “This allows us to grow tremendously; I’ll get a years worth of training here in two weeks.”
While the training opportunities for both units are high in worth, that does not seem to be the outcome with highest merit in regards to the two units training together.
“The greatest value of this training is the formation of a partnership between the 3rd Infantry Division and the 278th,” Kuester said.
Again, the sentiment seemed to ring true for Soldiers in the 278th ACR.
“The bond that’s forming is great…and the best part is how we work together so well,” said Phelps. “It is getting to the point for us [as snipers] that the lines are blurring and you can’t really tell the difference between the guard and active duty.”
Indeed this feeling seems to run across the board, and according to Kuester the Desert Rogues hope to not only form a partnership on the operational side of things, but hope to integrate with the 278th even more, participating jointly in future events like staff rides and unit social events.
“We’re just grateful and honored to have been given this fantastic opportunity to train and partner with our National Guard counterparts, the 278th ACR,” said Kuester. “Right now we are hoping to form a longstanding relationship with the 278th.”
Other contributors to this story include SRI International XCTC program at http://www.sri.com/work/projects/exportable-combat-training-capability-xctc