News: 49th Military Police Brigade steps it up at Warfighter 14-04
Story by Capt. Jason Sweeney
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Go big or go home.
Those motivational words were spoken by Army chaplain Capt. Joseph Caldwell to the soldiers of the California National Guard's 49th Military Police Brigade during Warfighter Exercise (WFX) 14-04, which took place at Fort Bragg, N.C., over 10 days of 24-hour operations April 7 to 17.
The 49th MPs went big at WFX 14-04 and demonstrated their ability to successfully complete every mission tasked to them.
Warfighters are mission command exercises that simulate scenarios that leaders might encounter in war. The exercises are designed to challenge commanders and their staffs to be both tactical and academic in their approach to wartime decision making.
The action for WFX 14-04 unfolded on computer screens as commanders made decisions in tactical operation centers, essentially large tents crammed full of computers and communications equipment, where soldiers provided command and control for battalions and companies out on the virtual battlefield.
About 125 soldiers from the 49th MP Brigade's Fairfield, Calif.-based Headquarters and Headquarters Company participated in WFX 14-04, which was led by the 82nd Airborne Division and included the command elements from 10 brigades. Active duty, reserve and guard components took part, as well as brigade command elements from Canada and the United Kingdom.
“The opportunity for the 49th MP Brigade to plug into an active component Warfighter Exercise that was multinational was tremendous for us and we performed exceptionally well,” 49th MP Brigade commander Col. Kelly Fisher said. “Our Soldiers have a great attitude and they're eager to take on anything asked of them without question.”
The scenario for WFX 14-04 involved a border dispute over oil rights and ethnic tensions between the fictional nations of Ariana and Atropia. The dispute came to a head when Ariana launched a large-scale military invasion of Atropia. In response to the act of aggression, the Atropian government requested help from the international community.
As Atroprian forces were being overrun, Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) 82, led by the 82nd Airborne Division, came to the rescue.
CJTF-82 was an international coalition tasked to repel the Arianian attack and re-establish the sovereignty of Atropia.
While the battle raged to the south, the 49th MP Brigade entered Atropia from the west with the North Carolina National Guard's 130th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. As part of the task force, the 49th MPs were responsible for the security of Atropia's main highway. The brigade was also tasked to conduct detainee operations—a sensitive mission due to intense scrutiny from international human rights organizations and the media.
“Working in joint operations with the 82nd Airborne Division, the 130th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and the Canadians to name a few, was a highlight in this exercise,” said Spc. Jennifer Munn, who worked a 12-hour night shift as a battle desk noncommissioned officer. “During the Warfighter Exercise, I learned the operations process for mission command warfighting. I also learned what it takees to maintain mission operational control of forces.”
The 49th MPs were challenged by a variety of simulated events, from refugees flooding the roadways to attacks by insurgent forces, blown bridges, threats to a hydroelectric dam, downed helicopters, rescue missions and allegations of detainee abuse in detainment facilities.
Capt. Amber Lerma served as the detainee operations officer responsible for establishing procedures and facilities for enemy combatant detainees.
“The pre-planning that's necessary prior to this type of mission is very detailed and involved, and requires coordination with multiple echelons,” she said.
Roleplayers acting as Atropian police and military met with task force commanders to test their ability to work with host nation leadership. Media engagements were part of the exercise with commanders and their staffs participating in print and television interviews that were posted daily in realistic media reports about the unfolding conflict.
At an after-action review at the completion of the exercise, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told the commanders and soldiers who participated that the future of warfare is increasingly uncertain, ambiguous and complex, and added that multi-component, multinational operations were the way of the future. Odierno said that many more Warfighter exercises were in the works to prepare for that future.
“The opportunity to be a part of an exercise of this magnitude allows the brigade to raise performance and capability tremendously,” 49th MP Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Menard said. “We came here with our brigade objectives and we were able to meet them while still supporting the 82nd Airborne Division's objectives for the Warfighter. All of that will hold us in good stead as the Homeland Response Force command and control element for FEMA [Federal Emergency Response Agency] Region IX.”
As of late, the 49th MP Brigade has concentrated its training efforts on its Homeland Response Force mission of responding to domestic manmade and natural disasters.The brigade completed a two-week high operations tempo exercise in August in which it was revalidated to continue its domestic mission as the main element and headquarters for the FEMA Region IX Homeland Response Force.
“For the past four years, we've been strictly civil support focused,” said Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Bayoneta, who served as the NCO in charge of the brigade's operations section for WFX 14-04. “This is the first time in that timeframe that we've refocused on unified land operations—actual war fighting skills—what we may face in future operations,” Bayoneta said of WFX 14-04 “It's been challenging but great training for everyone here.”
Maj. Bill Zielinski, an observer, coach and trainer with Mission Command Training Program Operations Group B from Fort Leavenworth, Kans., was on an evaluator team that shadowed the 49th MP Brigade during WFX 14-04. “Overall, I think that the 49th MP Brigade has a dynamic staff with very good working relationships, a good work ethic and high esprit d'corps,” he said.
“I'm really impressed,” Zielinski said of the brigade's performance at WFX 14-04. “You guys are going to take this and do something with it afterwards.”