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    The human factor

    Conducting a hot wash

    Photo By Grzegorz Czaplicki | U.S. Army Capt. Andrew Poller, an Observer/Coach-Trainer with the 7th Army Training...... read more read more



    Story by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson 

    7th Army Training Command

    Just before 6 a.m., May 18, 2021, U.S. Army Capt. Andrew Poller, wearing his fighting load carrier, trodded up a steep, sandy bank toward the tactical operations center atop the ridge. He spoke into his radio as he negotiated the hill.
    The morning air was cool; the ground was damp and the light was a mixture of the sun coming up and the moon going down. The only other sounds were the first birds chirping.
    Atop the hill, no one had arrived yet in the center, aside from the guard on mandatory duty. Soldiers on artillery firing crews were still catching precious sleep from inside their heavily-armored vehicles, or inside small tents scattered across the hilltop.
    Poller, however, was wide awake. It was the second day of firing for Dynamic Front 21, involving approximately 1,800 participants from 15 nations, at the Polish Army Artillery and Armament Training Center in Torun, Poland. Poller, a field artillery officer, was evaluating multinational fire teams from the Ukraine, United States, Poland and Denmark as they executed fire missions being called in by the 41st Field Artillery Brigade, more than 500 miles away in Grafenwoehr, Germany, where more multinational teams were also firing.
    The important task required that Poller and his team of Observer/Coach-Trainers from the Joint Multinational Readiness Center’s “Vampires” team be present to observe multinational fires teams in action from the break of dawn to well after 10 p.m. every night.
    “The Vampires are O/C-Ts for the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, which is part of the (7th Army Training Command),” Poller explained. “Our mission is to evaluate rotational units that come to our area of operation and provide them professional and thorough analysis and feedback on their training objectives.”
    “We give them feedback on things to sustain and improve, as well as record the lessons learned to share this information across the entire fires community, to help all our fires counterparts to improve their organizations.”
    The Vampire team is made up of seasoned subject matter experts in the U.S. Army field artillery branch. The team includes Poller, who hails from Coldwell, New Jersey, Maj. Joshua Zaruba, also a field artillery officer, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Staff Sgt. Austin Silva, from Orange City, Florida, and Staff Sgt. Nathan Gimlin, from Forks, Washington, both fire support specialists, Master Sgt. Caleb Robles, a field artillery senior sergeant from Omaha, Nebraska, Sgt. 1st Class Assegid Mekonen, a canon crew member from Tacoma Park, Maryland, and Sgt. 1st Class Todd White, a field artillery firefinder radar operator from Bullhead City, Arizona.
    Though the team has designated roles based on the member’s ranks, Robles said they know each other’s roles from having so much experience working together.
    “What is special about this team, is that you have an officer, you have senior noncommissioned officers, but I think at any given time, you can place any one of us in the role of someone else, and we can do the job,” Robles said.
    Usually, Poller and his team would observe the units as they came through Hohenfels, but during Dynamic Front 21, the team used their ability to export JMRC’s training capabilities to support the exercise in Poland.
    “This is a huge live-fire exercise across multiple countries,” Zaruba said. “You’re talking about multiple echelons and nations with different weapons systems. And it’s our exercise, and we get to see everyone working together toward a common goal. It’s one of the only exercises in the world that does something like this, and I feel lucky to be a part of it.”
    Gimlin said the exercise was important because young Soldiers from the participating U.S. Army field artillery unit, the 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment had a chance to work with allied and partner nations to experience their systems and technology to identify and engage targets.
    “These are the future leaders, and this exercise gave them the chance to see how they process missions, and we process missions, so later on, if they ever have to work with those counterparts again, they have an understanding of how to utilize them,” Gimlin said.
    Zaruba said 1st Bn., 82nd Field Artillery Regt., did an excellent job of improving interoperability by partnering batteries of their unit with other nation’s batteries to learn about each other’s weapons systems.
    Gimlin said the team worked with 1st Bn., 82nd Field Artillery Regt., during Combined Resolve 15 in February, and it was very rewarding to see the unit implement suggestions brought about from that exercise.
    Typically, the Vampires would evaluate teams at the battery level. In this exercise, however, they not only evaluated fire teams at the battalion level, but from three partner/allied nations, in addition to the 1st Bn., 82nd Field Artillery Regt., who conducted fire missions on the M109 Paladin 155 mm howitzer. This meant the Vampires had the unique challenge of observing and providing feedback on foreign firing systems, like the new Polish AHS Krab, a 155 mm tracked howitzer, the Ukranian 152 mm Hyacinth, and the Danish mortar systems.
    “It was a first for our team to work with this many multinational partners at the same time during the same exercise,” Zaruba said. “Usually, you don’t get to be tied into a multinational organization until battalion or brigade level, but this gave the younger Soldiers the opportunity to experience that now, which is a good thing because in the future, all things we will do will be either joint or multinational in nature.”
    When dealing with multiple nations, the Vampires relied heavily on a newly-developed document to facilitate discussions on what has already been shown to lead to successful joint training, Poller said.
    “Our starting point is the Joint Multinational Interoperability Guidebook from JMRC that is a work in progress,” Poller explained. “Any unit undergoing a mission with multinational counterparts can take this guidebook - and it’s applicable to any echelon at any level – and it gives them things to think about the items that relate to human procedural interoperability that you may not always think about.”
    Poller said the book is designed as a simplified guidebook, a step-action checklist that anyone can look at and understand prior to the onset of a multinational mission. Zaruba said the book focuses on the three pillars of a successful joint multinational mission: the human, the tactical, and the procedural.
    The team constantly observes training and the interaction between personnel from the nations in accomplishing each warfighting function and task. Several “hot washes” were scheduled in lulls throughout the exercise in which the O/C-Ts would bring the Soldiers from the four nations together to discuss how things were going.
    “Occasionally, a situation may arise where a commander might want to bring everybody together to talk about a different approach to a situation we encountered, and how to fix it,” Poller said.
    “The end goal there is to have the participants identify the issue and form a plan to work through the problem,” Gimlin said.
    In this situation, Zaruba said the team members would switch hats from their “observer” status to more of a “coach” role.
    Gimlin said regardless of the situation, though, by observing the various Soldiers involved in an exercise, the O/C-Ts are constantly learning themselves.
    At the end of the day, despite the field artillery warfighting technologies being utilized by the U.S. Army or its partner nations/allies, the team has come to realize the cornerstone for success for any joint multinational mission is the human aspect.
    “When you think about what means the most in an organization, at the end of the day, it’s a human operation that we’re dealing with,” Zaruba said.
    “So it doesn’t matter what kind of unit it is – it comes down to trust and the relationships and the trust you’ve built. Everything else will fall into place once you have that understanding that these are your partners, your allies, and you’ll get the procedural. They’ll learn your Standard Operating Procedures; you’ll learn their SOPs. The first step is the human dimension and making that work.”
    “This applies to any type of operation – we’ve got to be thinking about people first, knowing who you’re working with and building cohesion,” Poller said.
    “We often think of the term interoperability as systems and equipment and things working together, but we rarely talk about trust,” Robles said.
    “Trust is a human condition, I think. I think in an exercise like this, you can see how interoperability works, but I think beyond that, because of this exercise, we have built trust. I think that if we go to war tomorrow with the partners that we worked with here, we will trust each other to execute on the battlefield.”



    Date Taken: 05.21.2021
    Date Posted: 05.25.2021 08:54
    Story ID: 397306
    Location: TORUN, PL 

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