By WO Marvin MacNeill
On 6 Feb 2011, MWO Tony Batty and myself along with 7 other members of the (Observer Controller Trainer) OCT group and based out of CMTC Wainwright deployed to Ft Irwin, California to assist and conduct a small unit exchange with the Combat Trainers (CTs) at the US Army National Training Centre.
For some, this was not our first experience at NTC, as we deployed last year to conduct pre-deployment training for 2 RCR Battle Group during Ex Maple Guardian 1001.
The National Training Centre operates 10-12 pre-deployment rotations throughout the year to fulfill their commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan so any help to them is greatly appreciated at all levels.
The focus on this rotation would be with the 25th Infantry Division based out of Ft Wainwright, Alaska. This division is composed of a Stryker brigade that uses the American variant of the LAV III for its main combat vehicle. This Stryker brigade will also be deploying in the next few months to the Kandahar area of Afghanistan for a year long rotation.
The first week saw the augmentees or “augs” (as the Americans like to call us) conduct their version of the Combat Trainer Academy to further our knowledge on the way the US Army conducts after action reviews (AARs) and to be comfortable in operating their equipment and procedures in the live fire areas.
On completion of the academy, the Canadian OCTs were linked up with their counterparts as to their trade speciality. The American CTs use 15 teams to provide 24/7 coverage while operating in the desert to have maximum battlefield situational awareness for all elements of the rotational unit. We were issued the HUMMV (with no doors) and “God Guns” for our upcoming tasks.
The second week saw all of the elements in the brigade conduct small unit situational training exercises (STX) lanes to enhance real time scenarios on different events that may occur during their operational deployment. These included IED, mass causality, and even combat outpost defence which the Americans term the “Alamo” since the events always turns out to be the last stand before becoming overrun by the Contemporary Operating Environment Force (COEFOR). This rotation also saw the addition of a company of 2 PPCLI from Shilo, Manitoba to support COEFOR as insurgents and role players to improve the effect of the training environment.
The third week saw the Stryker brigade move to a force on force role and practice conducting real time operations while simulating events that may occur on their deployment. This is the time when the rotational unit gets to put into practice how their operations may be conducted in the Afghanistan environment. It is during this time that the Canadian OCTs really bring forward their operational experiences in Afghanistan and passing on the lessons learned from our numerous rotations in the Kandahar area.
This experience and opportunity has many lessons that are both shared and learned from both sides of the border and hope this will continue with future rotations to NTC by the OCT group.