CAMP SHELBY, Miss. - First Army Division East's combined training effort recently prepared a unit of multi-component engineer soldiers for a future retrograde mission to Afghanistan in support of ending Operation Enduring Freedom by the end of 2014.
Army Reserve and Army National Guard Engineer soldiers from Arkansas, South Carolina, Virginia, Missouri and Ohio recently completed their Cumulative Training Exercise, or CTE, at Camp Shelby Miss., with the assistance of the 177th Armored Brigade, First Army Division East.
The 489th Engineer Battalion will deploy soon on a retrograde mission to the southern region of Afghanistan as part of the Central Command Materiel Recovery Element, or CMRE.
For the CTE, the joint 177th and 489th planning team tackled the challenge of decentralized, large-team engineer-project operations and efficient communications as their training objective.
"During the CTE, the 489th Engineer Battalion, and companies will locate in essentially five different locations throughout the base," said Capt. Jonathan M. Dell, Cumulative Training Exercise planner, 2nd Battalion, 410th Field Artillery Regiment, 177th Armored Brigade. "This dislocation helps them think through the logistical problems and the communication challenges."
During their deployment, the 489th Engineer Battalion may face issues of supplying information and sustainment to their distant, outlaying companies that will sometimes experience austere conditions and limited resources, said Dell.
"The CTE sets our command objectives to prepare our soldiers for the mission in Afghanistan," said Lt. Col. Leslie A. Templin, battalion commander for the 489th Engineer Battalion, Little Rock, Ark. "The exercise realistically simulates what we will experience in country."
"In Afghanistan, our mission is to retrograde materials on existing bases, assist coalition forces in deconstructing bases, and upon completion, bring our soldiers home safely," said Templin.
The 489th Engineer Battalion efforts were methodical and deliberate during the CTE, organizing engineer company's tactical movement, logistical sustainment and maintain engineer projects around the cantonment area of Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center.
"Overall the CTE construction missions, both vertical and horizontal, provide training toward the deployment mission," said Capt. Mark A. Henson, assistant operations officer in charge of the 158th Infantry Brigade.
Henson is the Observer-Controller/Training Assistant on ground mentoring the soldiers of South Carolina Army National Guard's 124th Engineer Company, during the CTE.
"The engineer soldiers show vast progression throughout the exercise," said Henson. "The South Carolina Army National Guard's 124th Engineer Battalion especially demonstrated a quick progression in determining and overcoming short-falls during the CTE."
Henson attributes the progression of the multi-component engineer command's training to combined efforts of the 177th Armored Brigade, the 158th Infantry Brigade, and the support of the Observer-Controller/Training Assistants from the 157th Infantry Brigade, from Camp Atterbury, Ind.
"The simulated enemy scenarios during the CTE provided key tasks all geared toward threats in theater, such as, improvised exploded device defeat, indirect fire reaction and action, and insider threat reaction and action," said Henson.
The collaborative effort of units with First Army Division East Training influenced the development of a cohesive unit.
"The high operation tempo of simulated enemy action definitely puts stress on developing our battle rhythm," said Staff Sgt. Teal R. Wolf, native of Springfield, Mo., and operations battle non-commissioned officer for the 489th Engineer Battalion.
Wolf and his team's duties coordinated troop movement, communicated with companies on patrol and received reports of significant activity pertaining to their mission.
"An important asset of the training is the repetitive exercise in both communication, and developing reports of action on patrol," said Wolf. "The pace and realism of scenarios in training lets us work toward improvement before we arrive in theater."
The 489th Engineer Battalion soldiers display confidence embarking on this mission. These troops perform professionally in their engineer skill set and tactical dexterity. They also have the good fortune of a resourceful command and staff well seasoned on engineer operations in theater, said Dell.
Templin brings valuable expertise to her troops from prior deployments including deputy command experience on a similar retrograde mission to Iraq. Command Sgt. Maj. David G. Douth at, the senior enlisted adviser of the 489th Engineer Battalion, has two previous missions on his résumé, both to Iraq and Afghanistan. He is familiar of both the retrograde task and proposed area of operations.
Both said they are very proud of their soldiers initiative and extend gratitude to their families for their tireless and continuous support.
"I would like to recognize all the soldiers' hard work during the preparation," said Templin. "Their dedication is incredible and confirms they are ready for the mission."
First Army ensures 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.