News: 115th Fires Brigade Leadership Conference
Story by 1st Lt. Christian Venhuizen
CHEYENNE, Wyo. – The 115th Fires Brigade began the process of working to meet the artillery standard its leaders often associated with the Wyoming Army National Guard headquartered unit, said Lt. Col. Brian Nesvik, the brigade’s commander, during 115th’s Leadership Conference, in Cheyenne, Feb. 5.
The colonel said multiple deployments took their toll on technical skills key to artillery, for both the howitzer and rocket units.
“From Hawaii to Korea to Japan, our unit was able to train in all those places and gain a proficiency at a very high level, as a field artillery brigade,” Nesvik said, referencing the training the brigade conducted prior to operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. “The War on Terror began and our brigade, for the most part, deployed multiple times, fragmented in (non-artillery) missions.”
Nesvik made it a point to inform the 115th’s officers and senior non-commissioned officers that the brigade’s glory days are not for the history books.
ARFORGEN, or Army Force Generation, is the cycle which helps forecast timeframes for deployments. In the National Guard, ARFORGEN is a five-year cycle, with the fifth year the possible deployment year. If there's no deployment, the cycle begins again.
“It’s an opportunity for us to focus our training, resource our training, and be able to get back to that same level of excellence that we enjoyed,” Nesvik said. “(ARFORGEN) gives us some predictability and it gives us a path.”
The first year of ARFORGEN is a “reset” year, a time for units to send their Soldiers to training and hone their individual skills. As the years progress, more group training occurs, from sections and platoons to batteries and battalions, leading to a combat-ready unit.
The brigade’s units have yet to see a full ARFORGEN cycle completed. The colonel noted that many Soldiers, primarily junior enlisted, do not have high levels of confidence that the cycle will last.
What Nesvik pointed out is a number of indicators to the contrary, from the Army Chief of Staff’s continued commitment to ARFORGEN, to the posturing of the brigade itself. With few exceptions, the 115th deployed as a whole brigade for the first time in 2009, ending in April 2010. The mission to Kuwait, Iraq and elsewhere, allowed the battalions, batteries and companies in the brigade to jump into the same ARFORGEN cycle.
However, that mission, like the others before, were non-artillery, meaning there are artillery units in the brigade that have multiple deployments focusing on missions that fall into what the Army calls full spectrum operations, covering a variety of missions.
“We are definitely in the crawl phase when you talk about field artillery core competencies,” Nesvik said, referencing the three stages of training, crawl, walk and run. “Our soldiers are very good at doing Soldier skills. Our Soldiers are very proficient at driving and some of those periphery type skills that are very important to doing our job, but as far as actually putting steel down range and on target, we are at the ground level.”
The retraining includes the support units of the 960th Brigade Support Battalion, headquartered in Casper, Wyo. The unit had just come into existence prior to the 115th’s last deployment.
With annual training dates in the spring and summer months looming, Nesvik said the brigade’s annual conference was an opportunity to bring its leaders up to speed in the first year of the cycle.