News: National Training Center to be a true test for Lancer NCOs
Story by Sgt. Mark Miranda
FORT IRWIN, Calif. – With the soldiers of 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division in place with their equipment, preparation for weeks of in-depth training began immediately.
The “Lancer” brigade spent the last several months shifting focus from individual, team and squad level training in January to company live-fire exercises in April. Now at the National Training Center they are ready to put that training to use.
“The significant change is that we incorporated counterinsurgency training and elements of a COIN environment with role players. We came to the point where Soldiers have to decide ‘shoot or no-shoot’ in these exercises as part of the execution of their mission,” said Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Andrew Connette.
Since August, the brigade also focused on scenarios including key leader engagements, combating an enemy that uses tactics such as Improvised Explosive Devices and sending leaders to the COIN academy at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Brigade leadership attended preparatory training at the NTC, getting immersed in COIN doctrine and developing battle rhythms, orders and plans for the NTC.
“This is the best resourced training event that we’re going to have before our deployment, so ultimately we want to come out of here trained to conduct counter-insurgency,” said Connette.
Executing the training of thousands of soldiers at the NTC makes the role of the brigade’s non-commissioned officers significant.
“I want them to be standard bearers and enforcers of discipline amongst their soldiers. Basic standards such as the wear of the uniform - it starts there,” Connette said.
“They should be providing purpose for their soldiers – I think if we neglect to do that, sometimes a soldier doesn’t understand his role in the COIN fight.”
You don’t want a soldier to spend two days providing security for the conduct of a KLE and he comes out of it with the idea that it was a waste of time, that he didn’t do anything.”
Connette said if the NCOs are providing a sense of purpose for their soldiers and they can understand their roles in the bigger scheme of things, they’d come out of their training with a different perspective and a greater understanding of the unit’s mission.
“I’ve been lucky to have NCOs that make sure we’re in the right place, right time and making sure we’re not putting ourselves in harm’s way,” said Pfc. David Reeves, a reconnaissance platoon infantryman from Red Bank, N.J. assigned to 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment.
With just over a year in the Army, this is his first time taking part in training at the NTC.
“My team is a tight-knit group and that’s because we do have NCOs that consistently talk to us and make sure we’re ready to take on any situation while we’re here [at the NTC]. We’ve gone through a lot together from working details to getting the Strykers ready,” said Reeves.
Safety is another area where the brigade’s NCOs will have to dedicate focus.
“We’ll reduce accidents to as few as we can if leaders enforce those basic standards of discipline. We can lessen eye injuries if the leaders are enforcing the use of approved eye protective wear. We’re not going to have burn injuries if we’re wearing the uniform properly, if we’re wearing the fire retardant gloves. We use the restraint systems to lessen the impact of vehicle accidents,” said Connette.
He added that if a NCO is taking the time to prepare his team, to inspect them, he’s going to be successful.
“They make sure we’re trained, and trained well. It becomes a matter of loyalty to leadership, that we want to go where they go because we know we’ll be taken care of,” said Reeves.
“My section NCOs give a lot of guidance and help with my personal development,” said Spc. Brad Tsagris, an infantryman from Shingle Springs, Calif., assigned to Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 2nd SBCT, 2nd Inf. Div.
“We get the benefit of their knowledge and experience because they come from different backgrounds, sometimes a different MOS [military occupational specialties],” said Tsagris.
Without the time constraints of regular duty day hours, leaders have taken time to go over warrior training tasks with their soldiers.
“We do get some hip-pocket training, we’re always doing something, land navigation, weapons and even spontaneous PT,” said Reeves.
“To me, the most important things we’ll get out of NTC is making sure we know what to look for with insurgents and IEDs, knowing how to analyze a hostile situation. We need to know our equipment; vehicles, radios, weapons - just making sure we’re fundamentally sound in all aspects,” said Reeves.
An added benefit to coming to the NTC is having the time and the opportunity to teach soldiers some concepts not available in training manuals.
“Our NCOs need to ingrain in all our subordinates our vision that a Lancer is a protector, a person of honor, that he’s got a combat ready team - that we’re trusted and respected by those who know us. If he’s instilled that in our subordinates, then that will be their guide in everything that we do,” said Connette.
He believes his soldiers understand their role and the importance that they play on their team.
“I feel we’ll continue to build on that, and to me that gets back to purpose, a sense of belonging, and of everybody believing that they play an important part in this, because they do.”