Supporting a National Guard Mechanized Infantry Company & more
6th in a series by Tom Rozman
Experience in force availability and force component usability in a recent war had led to extensive effort by the Army to revisit its relationship with and systems of training and organization regarding its reserve components.
Specifically, the Army determined that review of its means by which the reserve components could be made more ready for mobilization and more integrated into an operational and ready go force was necessary given the recent experience.
One initiative of many in the above direction was to assign all standing combat brigades of the active army a National Guard brigade they would actively affiliate with for exchanges, training and other forms of support in developing heightened premobilization readiness. This was a developing initiative and this comment examines a mechanized company in the active force brigade’s experience with the emerging program from a leadership application perspective.
The company had recently been through a demanding six month operational schedule that had deployed it to a desert training center for a month 2,000 miles from home station. Immediately on return it deployed on a training and testing mission for a major equipment operational test for the Army requiring some 150-200 miles of operational movement per week of the test. And the company was assigned to retrain 20 NCOs being reassigned from over strength specialties as mechanized infantry small unit leaders.
The company was now assigned an affiliation National Guard mechanized infantry company from a National Guard brigade in another state. The Guard company had previously been a field artillery battery and was in its first year of reorganization and retraining as a mechanized infantry company. The company’s Guard parent battalion would be deploying to the active unit’s large installation to conduct its Annual Training of two weeks. The developing plan was that the active company would activate its communication with its affiliated company and do so oriented on a program that on the arrival of the Guard company at the installation for the Active Training, the active company would sign its combat vehicles over to the Guard company, host a concentrated week of training with the affiliated company, then deploy the company on an (Army Training and Evaluation Program) ARTEP and administer that ARTEP with following “hot wash” concerning performance during the ARTEP and conducting the return of vehicles and equipment from the affiliated guard company.
This was an intense and demanding, high visibility mission, visibility extending to Department of the Army. The company promptly initiated an intense training of its own personnel against the objectives of the affiliation mission and began multi-level communication between counterparts of the two units. Training included training evaluators for the ARTEP, going to school on the ARTEP system and developing familiarity with that process, reconnaissance of the terrain to be used and preparation of equipment for transfer. This was a very busy schedule over barely a month and a half.
In the event, the pre Active Training affiliation worked very well, the two company commanders operating from mutual respect—the Guard company commander was an ex-active infantry officer and combat veteran though his active experience was only with air assault infantry. The active commander had made it clear to all active personnel that they would treat their National Guard counterparts with professional respect and regard. This approach produced excellent rapport between the companies at every level.
The Guard draw of equipment from the active company went smoothly and the Guard company deployed to the designated training area in good form. The week of training and operations preceding the ARTEP went extremely well and the Guard company’s skills and abilities improved noticeably during the week. The training was intense.
The redeployment of the Guard company on the ARTEP phase was impressive; the Guardsmen had absorbed their pre-training very well. The following week was a grueling experience that exercised every tactical element of the Guard company to include live firing of its mortar platoon and anti-tank weapons.
The ARTEP was a huge success and the Guard company’s tactical competence greatly improved over the affiliation through to the conclusion of the ARTEP. As well, areas needing improvement had been identified, discussed along with strategies to address these areas.
This success on a difficult and demanding mission task was directly due to emphasis on communication, establishing a respectful relationship between the company’s leaders, training of staff, thorough engagement in the mission and attention to all aspects of the support and logistical mission. Subordinate leaders were empowered and a team concept was applied that worked.