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    Texas National Guardsmen strongly represent US presence at Swift Response

    Distinguished visitors gather at Camp Williams for Cyber Shield 17

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Matthew Ard | Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar watches the screen of a cyber forensics trainee during the Cyber...... read more read more

    US Army Garrison, Hohenfels, Germany - National Guard service members from 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Brigade based in San Antonio, Texas, attended the Observer Coach Training Academy at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center on Wednesday, June 8, 2016, alongside NATO Allies and partners participating in Exercise Swift Response.

    Swift Response was a two-phased, premier military crisis-response training event involving a multinational task force whose primary purpose was to evaluate the forces' readiness to rapidly deploy to respond anywhere in the world. The first phase began May 27 in Poland, during which paratroopers of several nations conducted multiple and simultaneous airborne jumps to demonstrate allied rapid response capabilities.

    "For this particular mission, our brigade was actually selected to fill some slots," said U.S. Army Capt. Jason W. Fernandez. "So we looked across our battalion and selected officers and enlisted Soldiers with both combat deployment experience and successful time in leadership key roles at the company and platoon level."

    "I volunteered to come here," said Capt. Joshua A. Wright. "I feel that some benefits that we've had from multiple deployments working with our NATO counterparts and real-world combat also adds to the value of being a good observer and coach in general."

    Fernandez is a training and operations leader at the battalion level. Wright is a battalion-level leader in administration and personnel actions, and also the full-time mobilization officer for Texas. They clarified what it means to be an observer coach and why the Texas Army National Guard was involved in Exercise Swift Response.

    "We're involved because, as we deploy overseas to places such as Afghanistan and Iraq, we found that we'll be working with French, Polish, British, and Australian military forces," Fernandez said. "Though a lot of our terminology and the way we conduct missions are very similar, there's a lot of things we need to learn more specifically about each other, so we don't have confusion that can result in loss to soldiers' lives, or damage to equipment or mission failure."

    "We observe the training and document what the units are doing," Wright said. "They give us what they want to train on, and their training plan is our indicator that they're succeeding at their mission. When there's a safety concern with what that unit is doing, that's where we step in and coach them on safer ways to do what they're doing."

    Phase Two of the exercise involved the Global Response Force, led by the 82nd Airborne Division, parachuting into Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels to conduct follow-on activities from Phase One. OC-T augmentees were divided into teams at Joint Multinational Readiness Center, during which the teams provided coaching, teaching, mentoring and After Action Reviews (AAR) to military units that are part of NATO. Some activities included a non-combatant evacuation operation and scenario-based operations involving civilians on the battlefield.

    Soldiers of the Texas Army National Guard understand the importance of multi-national relationships and how essential it is to the successful execution of an exercise involving this much collaboration.

    "Getting us all together and being over here is vital to those relationships," said Sgt. 1st Class Travis Hall, a scout platoon leader. "The multinational effort it takes when we deploy to an overseas mission gets us all on the same page easier, quicker, working together, gets us familiar with each other's tactics, techniques and procedures."

    Some of the challenges the Texas Army National Guard and other multi-national forces faced were communication issues, which they overcame during Exercise Swift Response.

    "I've been working with the French airborne troops from France, and they are very smart, very good at their jobs, but they do things differently from how we do it," said Capt. Gerald Rogers, an intelligence officer. "So that's the one hang-up that some of us had, saying 'this isn't what we do.' Well, it doesn't necessarily have to be, it's just a way, not the way. That's what I've been learning here--new ways to get things accomplished."

    Rogers described one of his experiences while observing and coaching the French unit; when involved in a scenario and some casualties had to be removed from a rooftop during a simulated attack, he noted how quickly the French Soldiers moved their casualties off the rooftop, down a ladder safely and securely, before he could advise them of a safer way to do it.

    "They've already prepared for incidents like that," Rogers said.

    "Sometimes there's a little bit of a rivalry between Guard, Reserve, active duty, and between units, but I haven't felt that here," Rogers said. "The OC-Ts here welcomed us in, assigned us to different teams like the Warthogs and the Grizzlies and others; once we became part of their teams, we were part of their families. So whatever we needed, they took care of us, be it radios, batteries, water, food, or maps."

    Soldiers from other nations reflected on their experience working with the Texas OC-Ts.

    "We've been working with soldiers from Texas for the first time," said British Army Warrant Officer 2nd Class Martyn Jones of 23rd Parachute Engineer Regiment. "It was important and good to have a mentor to show us the ropes because they've done a couple of rotations and this has been our first rotation."

    Jones was on the Raptor OC-T team. "You Texas OC-T Soldiers are constantly on the ground as observer mentors, whereas we're not so much; we're observing the soldiers, but we only step in briefly when there's a safety breach."

    "Initially it wasn't so much a language barrier, it was understanding that accent, but we bounced off one another, and overall it's been a real good experience," Jones said. "I'll definitely visit Texas."

    "The hardest thing for this rotation was that they brief all of their information in French," Rogers said. "So I have to work through a translator who is also an OC-T, who translates the high points, and then I help out at each section that I can, either intelligence, operations, fires, or whatever particular mission they have going on."

    There are always areas of improvement for every exercise, and the Texas OC-T team looked forward to mentioning those matters in an After Action Review.

    "The OC-T Academy is a good start, but I'd say next time it could go a little more in depth on the duties and responsibilities," Rogers said. "Maybe have a scenario day just for OC-T's. It takes a first-time OC-T some time to get competent at all of the duties and responsibilities."

    "I think it's going to help us understand the bigger strategic picture of continuing to face the global war on terror," Wright said. "We'll be able bring some of the lessons learned back to Texas soldiers."

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 06.22.2016
    Date Posted: 06.24.2016 11:13
    Story ID: 202360
    Location: DE

    Web Views: 135
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