News: 4/17th Inf. Regt. perform TOC jump during NIE 14.2
Story by Staff Sgt. Edward Garibay
FORT BLISS, Texas – Shots have been fired and prisoners taken during Network Integration Evaluation 14.2 here, which is designed to simulate a theater-level battlefield while evaluating potential equipment for the Army’s future use. Amidst all of this, one of the biggest feats was actually a noncombat operation known as a Tactical Operation Center jump, May 8. To do this, the 4th Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, had to move their entire headquarters element from one area to another.
“The way I look at it, it’s like we’re jumping from Kuwait to Iraq,” said Sgt. Leslie Fisk, a communications team chief in 4/17th Inf. Regt. “We’re starting from the staging area, which isn’t an unfriendly area, but isn’t a friendly area, and moving into a combat zone.”
While it’s simplistic in theory, actually pulling off a successful TOC jump can be very complicated, said Maj. Gregory P. Escobar, executive officer for 4/17th For the Soldiers in his battalion, this included breaking down, organizing, moving and re-establishing a headquarters of more than 600 Soldiers and 120 vehicles, all while under the constant threat of attack.
Escobar said his unit was ready for the challenge though.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better group of Soldiers,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of work to prepare for this exercise, and they’ve put forth a lot of effort.”
After returning home from an Afghanistan deployment less than a year ago, 4/17th soon began to train for NIE 14.2. They began in January and since then have been able to become proficient on all of their mission essential tasks.
“Our leadership has done a good job and allowed us just to plan, train and execute prior to NIE,” said Escobar. “In less than a year, we’ve become fully trained and ready for deployment again. Now we get to put it to the test and have outside evaluators give us feedback. Short of going to a training center, this is the most realistic training you can get.”
Not only did the battalion get a chance to train on its collective tasks, but each of the companies and individuals within them got a chance to strengthen their skills as well.
“As far as the communication section, the best part was the cross training,” said Fisk. “We had computer specialists working on radios, and radio operators working on computers. We normally only specialize in one thing, but being out here gave us the opportunity to go outside our normal lane. My hope is that my Soldiers will take something from this and be able to use it where ever they go.”
The TOC jump did far more than just exercise the talents of communication specialists. It gave the infantry a chance to flex their muscles and do what they do best.
“In the last few weeks, some of the cooler things we’ve done include air assaults, climbing through the mountains and capturing enemies and supplies,” said 1st Lt. Matthew C. Dunaway, a 4/17th platoon leader. “As far as the training aspect – it has really broadened my guys’ horizons. As infantrymen, these guys normally only see the small picture – they see the platoon level – but with all this other stuff going on they get to see the big picture and how everything ties in together. Plus, having all the mountains and desert, just like in Afghanistan, really helps.”
Not only did the Soldiers learn more about the how different Army units operate together, but they also got a taste of how the Army works in a joint environment. Embedded within the battalion was a group of Airmen to assist with the coordination of aerial support.
“It’s good to be out and integrate with the Army in full-spectrum operations to show what the Air Force can do in this fight,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cody Ciazza, a joint terminal attack controller with the 7th Air Support Operations Squadron. “We’re able to affect large scale battles with minimum personnel on the ground.”
By working together during NIE 14.2, both Air Force and Army personnel now have a better idea of how each other operate and are able to coordinate more efficiently in the future, said Ciazza.
“I think the most important thing is the working relationships you begin to build prior to stepping on the foreign battlefield,” he said. “Once you hit the ground, everyone is ready to go.”
Overall, the 4/17th TOC jump was a success on multiple levels. The battalion was able to effectively move their headquarters element forward on the battlefield, individual Soldiers received an opportunity for unique experiences and training, the Air Force and Army were able to train in a joint environment together, and camaraderie was built.
“Whenever you’re able to be out in the field and train together, it brings you closer together,” said Dunaway. “You endure the same things together and you know the person to your left and right know exactly how you feel.”
Even though the operation was well executed, the mission is long from over, said Escobar. NIE 14.2 has plenty more training opportunities and realistic combat situations in store.
“I’m just glad they have this here at Bliss so my battalion has an opportunity to come out here and train,” he said. “This is the most unique exercise I’ve ever been a part of.”