News: Mission Readiness Exercise helps deploying units
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Andy Yoshimura
FORT DIX, N.J. – “Mission Readiness” has always been at the forefront of 1st Training Brigade’s mission when training Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs units prior to their deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa.
Every year 1st Training Brigade trains and validates between 500 to 2,000 soldiers during the Mission Readiness Exercise which is the culmination event where units get to actually put into practice all the techniques and knowledge they’ve received during the mobilization process. Soldiers will be evaluated in such areas as cultural awareness, key leader engagements, female engagement team training and other exercises which help Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations units achieve their mission.
For this rotation, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, has the responsibility to certify the capability of the 301st Psychological Operations Company to perform psychological operation missions overseas. “The reason for the MRX is not only to validate to the unit’s higher command but also to themselves that they are prepared to go down range as a psychological operations or civil affairs unit,” said 1st Sgt. Scott Rogers, Alpha company first sergeant. "Soldiers appreciate more psyop or civil affairs type training rather than heavy tactical training.”
In the first scenario, soldiers of the 301st conducted an initial “meet and greet” with elders of an Afghan village. The training focused on following the proper cultural customs and greetings with key leaders in the village. “We have all been through bad training,” said Sgt. 1st Class Clayton Coash, of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, “having multiple deployments and multiple train-ups, we want to make the training more realistic and relevant.“
Throughout each scenario, soldiers trained with 20 to 30 Afghan role players who escalate their demeanor from calm to hostile depending on the situation and how well the soldier perform. Do the wrong thing and the role players react accordingly.
“Every year [1st Training Brigade] adapts to the changes in the battle space [therefore, we] make changes and adjustments to the training,” said Sgt. Madeleine Brodhead, a tactical psychological operations specialist, of the 301st POC. After returning from Iraq in 2010 and receiving similar training, Brodhead enjoyed the more realistic training she received this time; utilizing better role players for each scenario. “This is by far the best training I have received. They keep themselves updated on the more recent activities that are going on overseas.”
Coash explains that the training is geared more towards their “bread and butter” which is face-to-face training that replaces their former way of communicating to the community using loud speakers. “It all comes down to two people talking. It is cup of tea, it is a cigarette, that is where the job gets done,” said Coash. “That is where the magic happens.”
For three days, 1st Training Brigade evaluates and validates that units are 100% ready to perform their mission, which can last as long as 18 months. In the past, 1st Training Brigade has held some units past the required three days of training and evaluation in order to ensure each unit is prepared to perform their civil affairs or psyop missions.
Mobilizing soldiers train on their warrior tasks skills at a Regional Training Center before their MRX training with 1st Training Brigade at Fort Dix, N.J. The MRX is typically the last training phase units undergo before deploying overseas. “Our mission is for these units to be confident in their abilities as civil affairs and psychological operations operators,” said Rogers.