EDINBURGH, Ind. – The 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, one of the most diverse and combat-capable units in the Indiana National Guard, brought over 2,700 Soldiers to Camp Atterbury during the first half of June so the entire brigade could train together for annual training – something which had not occurred in more than a decade.
To orchestrate a single annual training that could facilitate the training needs of a brigade as diverse as the 76th IBCT, an equally diverse venue was necessary. The 76th IBCT needed a training facility with multiple ranges for small arms, crew served weapons, mortars and controlled detonations; facilities that could support brigade-level operations requirements; and restricted airspace, so that they could put their unmanned aerial systems to work. These requirements, along with a central Indiana location, made Camp Atterbury the ideal training venue for the 76th IBCT’s annual training.
“The 76th IBCT has not had an opportunity to train together as an entire brigade in over 10 years. The way mobilizations have been running, the command and control at the brigade level has not been allowed to happen,” said Col. Ron Westfall, Mooresville, Indiana., native, and commander of the 76th IBCT. “This year, we have the whole brigade together, in its new configuration, which has allowed the brigade to exercise every single one of its command and control systems, as well as its sustainment systems, which was key to the success of the brigade getting back together.”
As one of the most heavily mobilized units in the entire National Guard, the 76th IBCT has had to spend a great deal of time training soldiers for unconventional missions in support of the War on Terror over the last decade. These missions have included everything from convoy security, military training teams, base support and more. These missions made it difficult for many units in the 76th IBCT to exercise the skills inherent to their actual specialties. Westfall wanted to change that trend at this year’s annual training.
“Every Soldier in the brigade was able to train on the [military occupational specialty] that they signed up to do,” said Westfall. “This is huge because it is one of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from Soldiers over the last six years. So I have 2700 soldiers that are just smiling from ear to ear after this [annual training.] It has been great for retention, too. By midway through the training, we had already seen over 70 reenlistments. There were more by the time we finished.”
“Atterbury is one of the only places in the state where [UAVs] can fly, because we have to stay within restricted airspace,” said Staff Sgt. Warren Sherman, Brownsburg, Ind. native and tactical unmanned aircraft systems platoon sergeant. “Here at Atterbury, we can do absolutely any kind of training we need.”
In a unit such as the 76th IBCT, it is important that units are not only able to practice all of their various individual skills, but that they can create scenarios in which all of those skills come together in practical applications. With dozens of training areas and thousands of acres of space, Camp Atterbury was able to facilitate the 76th IBCT perfectly.
“Atterbury was key to this training,” said Westfall. “We had Shadow UAVs flying overhead, sending live feeds of information to the troops on the ground, so commanders could formulate operations orders and then partner with aviation assets from the 38th Combat Aviation Brigade to perform air insertions and take down objectives with real-time intelligence. I don’t know where else we could have made training like this happen.”