CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. - Soldiers from the First Army Division East and 10th Mountain Division recently teamed up to provide realistic and relevant training for Provincial Reconstruction Teams during their culminating training exercise at Camp Atterbury, Ind.
Maj. Paul Shepard, chief of plans for the 4th Cavalry Brigade, Fort Knox, Ky., First Army Division East, said the military trains like it fights.
“There is no better solution for the PRTs than to receive training with highly-trained, highly-motivated soldiers. For the Navy O5s who command the PRTs, this is a perfect time for them and their staff to practice integrating realistic force protection into their planning and execution phases of operations,” said Shepard, from Albuquerque, N.M.
“The training process takes a company of soldiers who are at the height of their collective training, gives them a specific mission while integrating interagency, joint, and PRT forces, closely resembles the conditions these same forces will experience as they deploy to Afghanistan,” explained Shepard.
Partnering with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division just makes sense, added Shepard, since PRT Ghazni will be working with one of the 10th Mountain’s battalions while deployed to Afghanistan. It also gives the BCT’s rear provisional soldiers a chance to use the skills they developed during training.
“The soldiers and noncommissioned officers of 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division have trained hard while the rest of the BCT is deployed, and this event gives them the opportunity to test their battle-focused training while forging their team,” Shepard said.
“The young lieutenants and security force platoons get an opportunity to work with students from the Foreign Service Institute and U.S. Navy personnel. The entire security force team gets training and mentorship from the 4th Cavalry trainer-mentors as well as immediate feedback throughout the culminating training event,” Shepard said.
Capt. Christopher M. Perrone, commander of Delta Company, 2-22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, agreed.
The unit has more than doubled the number of his people trained in combat lifesaver training, MRAP drivers training, and CROW gunner's station training – helping increase his unit’s combat readiness significantly, he said.
“Additionally, we have received advanced situational awareness training that focused on understanding the physiological and sub-conscious cues that all people give off during stressful situations. This training really helps the new soldiers to recognize certain behavior patterns and to interpret what those actions mean,” said Perrone, who deployed to Iraq in 2009.
“As a company we are in the rebuilding phase as the majority of our leadership including one whole platoon deployed to Afghanistan in January. Camp Atterbury has enabled us to conduct eight-straight days of section and platoon-level situational training exercises,” Perrone concluded.
Newly-promoted Cpl. Charles Brown agreed the training has helped build unit cohesion.
For Brown, who deployed to Afghanistan in 2011, it was about getting back to basics – helping give the new soldiers a feel for what it’s really like in a combat environment, communicating while moving on an objective, reacting to possible insider threats during a key leader engagement, and identifying possible improvised explosive devices.
“There is nothing better than playing out a scenario that could happen in country, messing up, and being able to sit down and evaluate where you went wrong and correct it,” said Brown, from Elizabethton, Tenn. “It’s great to see your young soldiers get excited and stay motivated even if they made a mistake, because they know they can learn from it and correct it.”
Pfc. Jonathan Culp, of Rockledge, Fla., and Spc. David McClendon, of Bogalusa, La., are two of those new soldiers. In the Army for less than two years, neither soldier has deployed yet. However, after training with the 4th Cavalry Brigade trainer-mentors and working security for the PRT missions, both say they feel much more confident.
“The 4th Cavalry trainers are very competent teachers: the best I’ve had since I’ve been in the Army,” said Culp, who has trained at Fort Drum, N.Y., and the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. “The training here is far different from Fort Drum or NTC. The training here, I believe, is as close to what I could experience in Afghanistan as possible.”
It was a win-win situation, Perrone said.
“Camp Atterbury has provided a tremendous opportunity for my soldiers to interact with actual Afghan role players who speak the language. Having the real deal is a lot different than another company from a sister battalion dressing up and pretending,” said Perrone, from Lake George, N.Y. “I hope that by the end of the rotation, my soldiers will have a greater appreciation for what the PRT teams have to go through.”
He stressed the difficulty all the members overcame to develop a successful, cohesive team.
“It is extremely difficult to build a cohesive team from two different services that include a variety of job specialties. The PRTs showed up to Camp Atterbury not knowing each other and have had to become one team working towards a common goal in preparation for their upcoming deployment. That’s a lot different than an entire unit that has trained together over a lengthy period and conducted several mission rehearsal exercises prior to coming to something like this,” Perrone said.
It’s a partnership that also is saving the Army money, added Perrone.
“At little to no cost, we were able to execute a company deployment, increase our mission readiness, and receive quality collective training with Afghan role players, and lifelike enemy effects on the battlefield that would have other-wise cost a fortune,” Perrone said.
“Later this summer, the 4th Cavalry Brigade will assist 1st BCT, 10th Mountain Division with their home station External Combat Training Center Rotation. This relationship will pave the way to allow units to train at home while receiving the same quality support that would be offered at a combat training center, but at a fraction of the cost.”
First Army Division East mobilizes, trains, validates and deploys Reserve Component units to support overseas military operations. Mobilization training is relevant, realistic and reflects the most current conditions Soldiers will face in theater. First Army Division East directly supports the chief of staff of the Army’s priority of providing trained, equipped and ready forces to win the current fight, while maintaining responsiveness for unforeseen contingencies.