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    First Army commanding general visits Soldiers of North Fort Hood



    Story by Capt. Steven Wesoloswski 

    Division West, First Army

    By Capt. Steven L. Wesolowski, First Army Division West Public Affairs

    FORT HOOD, TX – First Army’s new commanding general and command sergeant major were greeted by Division West leadership at their headquarters on July 27, followed by a tour of North Fort Hood’s training facilities and engagement with Observer, Coach/Trainers (OC/Ts).

    Lt. Gen. Antonio A. Aguto, commanding general of First Army, had just taken command last June, and was ready to observe the training capabilities of the OC/Ts from 120th Infantry Brigade and 166th Aviation Brigade, to include meeting with their command teams as well as battalion-level leaders.

    “I am pleased with the visit to Division West and North Fort Hood, and am happy to have met the command teams and observe how the OC/Ts from across the division are carrying out First Army’s mission,” said Aguto. “It is an honor to be First Army’s commanding general and speak to the Soldiers undergoing their training. I am humbled to join in on the continued partnerships Division West has built over the years and instill the Soldiers on People First.”

    Aguto’s visit was accompanied by Maj. Gen. Richard F. Johnson, commanding general of Division West, who further assisted in the commander’s first-hand look at each brigade’s leadership, mission, current strengths and capabilities, and observations of what North Fort Hood provides to Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve mobilizations.

    “We’re glad Lt. Gen. Aguto was able to visit and not only review our division’s current operational picture over Army mobilizations, resourcing, and MFGI expansion projects, but also directly engage with the Soldiers and observe the quality of life provided at North Fort Hood,” said Johnson. “We had many of our OC/Ts and Soldiers meet with him and learn from First Army leadership, and we thank Lt. Gen. Aguto and Command Sgt. Maj. McDwyer for taking the time to visit our team.”

    166th Aviation Brigade provided their introductions followed by discussions and a briefing about their organization as part of First Army’s premiere trainers for mobilizing Army National Guard aviation units.

    Royal Netherlands Army (RNLA) Maj. Jan Q. Elsinga, deputy commander and foreign liaison officer of the 302nd Royal Netherlands Aviation Squadron, also participated in the meeting with 166th Avn. Bde. to meet and observe First Army leadership.

    “I personally enjoyed the ‘open forum’ where the command teams of 166th Avn. Bde. were able to have an open discussion with the new commanding general,” said Elsinga. “As a former Dutch ‘OC/T’ or ‘Observer Trainer Evaluator’, as we call ourselves, I certainly agree with the commander’s importance of building partnerships and investing in the trainer/trainee relationship to enhance training results.”

    Elsinga further related to one of Aguto’s tenets that all leaders must always provide a sense of purpose to their Soldiers.

    “I think the commander’s take on ‘sense of purpose’ is integral to our line of work,” shared Elsinga. “We [the RNLA] tend to only see ourselves in ‘severe crisis situations.’ Our purpose is to train for these situations, and be ready when needed. And even when we’re not facing an actual crisis, our leader’s sense of this very purpose only helps our personnel achieve their self-actualization --it’s a reminder of the top tier level to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory on motivation that we use to enable growth and development of our Soldiers.”

    Following flyovers of North Fort Hood’s training grounds, Aguto’s first stop was with Soldiers who were on break at the PX. He spoke to Soldiers from 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR), Tennessee Army National Guard (TNARNG), to learn about their recent eXPortable Combat Training Capability (XCTC) exercise that fulfilled their annual training (AT).

    Groups of 278th ACR Soldiers exchanged feedback about the facilities, XCTC training support from First Army OC/Ts, and Army service stories with Aguto, resulting in several receiving First Army command coins of excellence for their hard work demonstrated.

    “It was definitely a surprise visit for sure, but a great morale booster for us,” said Sgt. Dylan C. Rowe, a team leader from 1st Platoon, Troop F, 2nd Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, and resident of Chattanooga, Tennessee. “The experience was absolutely fantastic. This was actually my first time getting to talk with a general officer and being able to share with him who we were and the training we conducted alongside First Army OC/Ts. Both generals were very approachable, personable, and extremely knowledgeable.”

    Rowe also received a First Army command coin of excellence from Aguto for his hard work demonstrated during the XCTC.

    “It was very good training. As a rifleman in the dismounted teams for 278th ACR, I felt like everything fell into place perfectly. From practicing dismounted patrols with our Bradley Fighting Vehicles to the simulated artillery and call for fire exercises, it was a great learning experience for us all --it all goes towards the leadership and the support from First Army OC/Ts who guided us every step of the way,” said Rowe. “Coincidentally, one of the OC/Ts who worked with us in the exercise actually happened to be one of my EIB graders when I was stationed in Germany several years back –small world! It was a very rewarding.”

    Sgt. Christopher M. Carroll, a combat medic for Troop E, 2nd Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, was also a recipient of the First Army command coin from Aguto.

    “I was sitting at the table watching over my troops, and was surprised by the immediate snap to attention by everyone as I didn’t realize a two-star general, followed by a three-star general, were approaching us from behind me. Of course, in a matter of a split-second, by the time I followed suit, Lt. Gen. Aguto was already telling everybody to sit down and relax,” Carroll chuckled. “It was an honor to get to speak to Lt. Gen. Aguto. He brought in a ton of energy and he took the time to really get to know us. You would have never thought there would be so much share of respect going around the table.”

    Carroll, who also serves full-time as a law enforcement officer for the Sheriff’s Office in Maryville, Tennessee, recollected several things Aguto wanted to know.

    “There were a lot of great topics covered. We shared about our full-time work, and what it meant to serve our country. I recall the commanding general asking about one of our Soldiers who was thinking about moving on as his end to contract with TNARNG was approaching fast. Aguto took the time hearing out his family situation and life goals, and ended up pointing out new reenlistment to service benefits that even myself wasn’t aware of,” Carroll shared. “For us as citizen-soldiers, just listening to Lt. Gen. Aguto and Maj. Gen. Johnson’s input felt very rewarding and helpful.”

    Carroll further shared about his training experience during the XCTC as well.

    “Well, first off, I was actually born in Fort Hood. My father served in Vietnam and we were stationed here during my very early days, so returning to The Great Place to train felt very special to me –a lot of great memories. First Army’s OC/Ts and logistics were second to none. The XCTC was so well organized. We covered every scenario at every training area in a very timely manner. It was more intense than the AT we conducted at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin several years ago, especially with the Texas summer heat. As a senior medic, safety was paramount throughout all the training. My team and I successfully treated and cared over 10 heat casualties. Everyone was still able to finish the training, and it was a very memorable experience.”

    Aguto, alongside Command Sgt. Maj. John P. McDwyer, command sergeant major of First Army, followed up with Longhorn division’s OC/Ts over a lunch break in Gatesville. Both engaged with the Soldiers to get a good highlight of where each Soldier came from prior to joining First Army, and what it meant to them serving and impacting Soldier readiness.

    Several of the OC/Ts expressed appreciation for the new commanding general taking time to get to know them, share training experiences, and discuss leadership principles.

    Master Sgt. Paul J. Conmackie, a senior OC/T for 1sts Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, 120th Infantry Brigade, who served as an OC/T NCOIC since 2018, enjoyed the engagement with First Army leadership.

    “The lunch break went well and we had quality time engaging with our new commanding general,” said Conmackie. “We were able to address Force Tracking Numbers management, quality of the Force Administration Area, and many other OC/T topics. I felt we posed great questions and got plenty of answers. The biggest take-away for me was Lt. Gen. Aguto’s focus on People First and care for Soldiers’ families.”

    Master Sgt. Elijah Ba, a team NCOIC and OC/T for 2nd Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, 120th Infantry Brigade, who just completed the York Academy last June, shared his appreciation for the meeting.

    “Those who were involved in setting up the lunch meeting did a great job. It is always a good event to hear directly from our commanding general,” said Ba. “I believe his battlefield circulation with the troops served critical to reinforcing our commitment to the mission. A lot of discussions centered on ensuring OC/Ts receive their MOS training and our personal viewpoints on People First –it served essential to his seeking feedback on improving the force.”

    Sgt. 1st Class Joshua L. Failor, a current operations noncommissioned officer for 120th Infantry Brigade, commented how great it was to discuss work over Texas barbeque.

    “It was great to sit down with the commanding general and talk to him about any issues and concerns with First Army policies and procedures,” said Failor. “I’ve served as an OC/T for three years, and it was an honor being able to directly share areas of improvement and ideas regarding First Army York Academy training, OC/T roles and responsibilities, and getting Soldiers to the schools they require for their careers.”

    Failor further added, “I’d also like to give a shout to the patron who anonymously picked up the tab for everyone. It’s always a good feeling to be appreciated for our efforts. That was an outstanding gesture of appreciation. I know that bill wasn’t cheap.”

    While continuing the tour of North Fort Hood, First Army leaders received a briefing led by Lt. Col. Julian T. Kemper, executive officer of 120th Infantry Brigade, followed by an open forum between Aguto, McDwyer, and the training support battalion command teams.

    A key area of discussion included the Mobilization Continuum process; from the time an Army unit receives its Notification of Sourcing (NOS) to begin mobilization actions to the time they deploy, and how Soldiers return to their home duty stations. Aguto showed no hesitation when asking how each phase carries out safety requirements.

    “The visit went extremely well. He definitely exudes himself as the Soldier’s leader,” said Kemper. “He enjoyed his interaction with both, First Army OC/Ts and Reserve Component Soldiers, and gained a better understanding of First Army’s reach. He showed interest to our continued partnerships for mobilization support, to include our overview of the transitions between pre and post-mobilization phases for Army units.

    When asked about what he felt First Army was most impressed about mobilization operations, Kemper concluded, “I believe he was most pleased with the management of North Fort Hood’s facilities, especially with how our brigade addressed the complexity of our mission compounded by the COVID problem set this past year.”

    During the open discussion, Aguto shared about the importance of taking care of Soldiers stationed at North Fort Hood.

    “Today’s Army requires a foundation of trust between its leaders and Soldiers, and safeguarding that trust is by ensuring their safety and welfare,” said Aguto. “Throughout my career, I have found that it is critical every Soldier is provided four things to keep morale high and mission-ready; good chow, a good gym (that will help them attain their fitness goals), a sense of purpose, and internet access –it’s how they communicate, especially for keeping in touch with their families back home.”

    Following the brief, Aguto and McDwyer, further toured North Fort Hood facilities with 4th Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment (Medical), 120th Infantry Brigade, led by battalion commander Lt. Col. Mariano T. Mesngon, and Command Sgt. Maj. Dina A. Pang.

    Mesngon walked Aguto through one of their training environments provided for Forward Resuscitative Surgical Teams (FRSTs). Included in the tour was a thorough layout of a Medical Equipment Set (MES), along with simulated patient care scenarios and brief introductions to several of their medical OC/Ts.

    “We’re honored to have Lt. Gen. Aguto visit and observe our medical training grounds,” said Mesngon. “We are First Army’s only medical battalion with subject matter experts in medical combat care --a capability that is currently only owned by First Army and the Army Reserve Medical Command. Our teams are always ready to receive, train, and validate medical personnel, and we often do so for FRSTs. Our OC/Ts train them to rapidly deploy and provide urgent expeditionary surgical capabilities to patients next to the frontlines of any mission.”

    FRSTs are highly mobile, modular and scalable teams consisting of up to 20 medical personnel, ranging from combat medics, nurses, anesthesiologists, equipment technicians, and surgeons. A fully manned FRST is also trained by First Army OC/Ts to quickly split into 10-person teams capable of performing immediate surgery and patient care at another location within the same area of operations of an assigned mission.

    Command Sgt. Maj. Pang also expressed her appreciation for First Army’s new leadership and visit.

    “Both, the First Army commanding general and command sergeant major, have vast amounts of Combat Training Center (CTC) engagement and OC/T experience. Their experiences together will certainly serve valuable to First Army, and impact how we validate collective trainings and run culminating training events for our Soldiers moving forward,” said Pang. “What is great about their visit with us, is that they have taken the time to get to know how we, as the boots on the ground, think they can improve First Army policies and help us accomplish our missions.”

    Towards the end of the tour, Pang introduced Aguto to two of 4-393 TSBN’s recently recognized Soldiers for their demonstrated work in patient administration and medical logistics. Both, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Helbing, a patient administration specialist, and Capt. Casey Gregg, a medical logistician, received First Army command coins of excellence.

    “I am very pleased with the demonstrated professionalism and dedication to all training exercises supported by our First Army OC/Ts at North Fort Hood,” said Aguto. “From the Division West leadership to the down-trace units from each brigade, it is very gratifying to see that safety and Soldier readiness remains as the top priority. The quality of life provided by our MFGIs, to include COVID mitigation protocols, shows the mission remains no change, and I look forward to leading and guiding First Army’s mission.”



    Date Taken: 08.11.2021
    Date Posted: 08.23.2021 10:43
    Story ID: 402957
    Location: FORT HOOD, TX, US 
    Hometown: CHICAGO, IL, US

    Web Views: 25
    Downloads: 0