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    US Army Reserve CSTX: A total force element

    US Army Reserve CSTX 2015

    Photo By Brian Godette | Capt. Efran Candelaria, with the U.S. Army Reserve 912th Forward Surgical Team reacts...... read more read more



    Story by Brian Godette 

    U.S. Army Reserve Command

    FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. - U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers awoke March 8 in the Golden State and kicked off the final week of the 84th Training Command’s Combat Support Training Exercise 91-15-01 with the same intensity as day one, two weeks prior.

    “We’re not talking about coming out and doing your annual marksmanship or medical readiness,” said Maj. Alex Kerkow, 91st Training Division deputy chief of operations. “We’re talking about simulating an operational deployment.”

    CSTX is designed to train Army reserve units to prepare for mobilization, and the 91st Training Division, who hosted and supporting the event, have added a real life slant to that training by integrating active Army, National Guard, and other joint partners to participate in the training.

    “CSTX in its infancy was a simple concept of an enhanced annual training that has grown by leaps and bounds,” said Kerkow. “Over the last six years, we took out the annual training mindset and put in the operational deployment mindset, leaving the training audience with the closest thing to operational deployment we can get in a training environment.”

    For this particular exercise there are over 800 active Army Soldiers from the 81st Cavalry Squadron, over 200 California National Guard Soldiers, and over 200 Navy personnel assisting with the medical facilities.

    “This sets up our Army Reserve units to know what to expect when they work with active component units, Army National Guard units, and with joint partners,” said Kerkow.

    The CSTX training works in phases, to fully incorporate the Soldiers into a well-rounded training environment that mimics real world pre-mobilization and operational deployment scenarios. The first phase is the reception staging phase where they go from their home of record to their unit and “deploy” to the initial staging base, California National Guard training base, Camp Roberts.

    From there they move to mission rehearsal phase where the tactical operation centers establish their battle rhythms, allowing the Soldiers to do some battle drill rehearsals in preparation for the operation phase.

    “The operations phase is free play, 24/7, missions come down anytime during the day and can be executed,” said Kerkow.

    The focus of the exercise is to train sustainment units, and this year’s participants belong to medical, logistics, quartermasters, engineers, military police, and signal, who make up the bulk of the Army Reserve units. Every unit runs missions according to their designated military task during the operational phase.

    “We’re operating in a stability operations environment, however we do come in as if we’re on the front line and setting up, so you see that whole transition from establishing an area of operation, establishing life support, establishing your command and communications, and performing your operations then retrograding those operations, getting that whole deployment cycle from start to finish,” said Master Sgt. Gary Ford with the 804th Medical Brigade.

    The CSTX training audience is split into different forward operating bases across Fort Hunter Liggett and Camp Roberts, simulating the many locales and services forces would have, when deployed.

    “A lot of the junior Soldiers haven’t been deployed, and we perform on drill weekends but a lot of the time the focus of our actual jobs are lost in other metrics, so it’s nice to get out here and deploy our element and really get in the shops,” said Ford. “It kind of gives Soldiers their true purpose down range.”

    The hands-on experience was a factor most participants appreciated. Walking through the FOBs and seeing more than one type of uniform working in the same command to achieve a common goal provided another positive element for the training audience.

    “I think this is more on line with real world operations and a great place to get all the kinks out and recognize your deficiencies,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Brevard Smith III, a Naval augmenter out of Colorado Springs. “It’s always been rewarding working with joint forces. You learn a lot more and overall it makes you a well-rounded individual.”

    CSTX also provides those military units that are behind the scenes, a chance to get hands on as well and fulfill a real-world training opportunity. Soldiers of the 200th Preventive Medicine unit have been setting traps for rodents, capturing mosquitoes, testing air, and water, all in an effort to ensure the health and safety their forward deployed brothers and sisters.

    “We’re behind the scenes with what we do, and not everyone realizes the impact we have on a mission,” said Cadet Hannah Nilsen, attached to the 200th Preventive Medicine unit.

    “Our main mission is to keep Soldiers healthy and that’s what preventative medicine does,” said Sgt. Marquelle Dreiss, attached to the 200th Preventive Medicine unit. “I just love the Army, and this is why I joined, to be out here doing this stuff."

    While units were able to get hands-on training with their specific military occupational specialty, the training command did not falter on adding the combat skills training needed in real-world deployment situations. Throughout the exercise, opposition forces, generally played by the active duty Soldiers, assaulted the base camps of several units. This forced the units to retaliate to the indirect fire improvised explosive detonation attacks on convoys as they should if deployed.

    “The Soldiers are very motivated and know their MOS very well but may need some Soldiering skills tweaking, knowledge and experience, and that is what we provide,“ said Staff Sgt. Matthew Coonts, training sergeant with 2nd Battalion, 378th Regiment. “As the war evolves, we need to change our tactics to get them prepared for what they will see at the battlefield.”

    The end goal of the 84th Training Command, 91st Training Division, and senior leaders for all the participating units is to train their participants to standards ready for operational deployment. This year’s CSTX would probably agree this year’s event has gone to great lengths to achieve that end.



    Date Taken: 03.08.2015
    Date Posted: 03.12.2015 17:44
    Story ID: 156827

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    US Army Reserve CSTX: A total force element