FORT POLK, La. — Joint Readiness Training Center rotations bring Soldiers as close to modern combat operations as possible outside of an actual combat zone. That’s the point of it.
In June, the 1st Battalion, 102nd Infantry Regiment, with the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, successfully completed a JRTC rotation.
The 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team was the only National Guard IBCT to complete a JRTC rotation in 2014.
More than 5,000 Soldiers with the 86th IBCT participated in this JRTC rotation.
More than 600 Soldiers in the 1-102nd and F Company, 186th Forward Support, left Connecticut for Fort Polk, Louisiana on June 1, and its last elements returned to Connecticut on June 30.
JRTC at Fort Polk, Louisiana has been in operation since 1993, and since 2001 has been instrumental in preparing U.S. military units for combat operations overseas.
The U.S. Army Installation Management Command website states that JRTC is focused on improving unit readiness by providing realistic, stressful, joint and combined arms training across the full spectrum of conflict (current and future).
That’s exactly what the 1-102nd received.
1-102nd Infantry Battalion commander, Maj. Robert Brafford, said JRTC presents to Soldiers the best possible training to prepare them for operations across the globe.
He said 1-102nd Soldiers conducted more than 100 days of training in preparation for this rotation.
Brafford said the JRTC rotation focused on company, battalion and brigade level integration of infantry, armor, artillery, aviation and Air Force close air support combat capabilities.
He said two types of training were emphasized: live fire training against moving and stationary targets to hone in weapon skills during maneuvers; and controlled force-on-force training using blank ammunition and laser engagement systems against threats ranging from small scale criminal and terrorist attacks to an armor equipped enemy force of similar size and capability to U.S. units.
A Company, 1-102nd First Sgt. Dan Morgan briefed his company prior to their departure on the importance of camaraderie, leadership, hard work and resilience during their rotation.
“Will it be fun? No. Will there be times of stress? Yes,” Morgan said.
Morgan said his company excelled during the four day live fire exercise, which integrated .50-caliber support from D Company, 1-102nd, and 60mm mortar fire.
Morgan said he was also very pleased at his company’s ability to successfully integrate ten new Soldiers directly from the Recruit Sustainment Program into their unit.
“These were Soldiers who had never trained with us,” he said.
“Every leader from platoon leader down to team leader and the ‘joes’ worked hard to integrate these new Soldiers into the way we train and fight,” he said.
“It was more educational than difficult,” said Spc. Josh Conniff, infantryman from A Company, about the rotation, “but we learned a lot.
“We received great training on tactical movements and setting up hasty positions. We were taught how to properly construct defensive firing positions as well,” he said.
Sgt. Rob Rentz from HHC Company said he is grateful for being able to fire mortars during the rotation’s four day live fire exercise, and is glad that mortar fire was incorporated into the training.
He said he was also pleased at how easily the battalion’s Soldiers, new and old, were able to work together cohesively.
Rentz was a member of Headquarters and Headquarters Company in 2009-2010 during its first JRTC rotation. At that time, JRTC training was focused on tailoring training for conditions in OEF/OIF theatres in Mission Readiness Exercises.
In 2012, the Army shifted to the Decisive Action Training Environment (DATE) model designed to present a wider range of ‘hybrid’ threats to Soldiers in JRTC rotation units.
According to Army.mil internet publication, ‘Stand To,’ “TRADOC developed the DATE to create a common training scenario for use throughout the Army. It features a hybrid threat reflective of the complexities of potential adversaries our nation could face in the 21st century.”
B Company, 1-102nd commander Capt. Nicholas Raphael said the DATE training structure gave his company the opportunity to train the way they would fight.
Raphael said this JRTC rotation forced his Soldiers to operate outside of a FOB centered training environment, and made them utilize logistic channels they way that they’re meant to be accessed.
He said this training environment reinforced an understanding to his Soldiers that all of their tasks were directly related to the battalion and brigade task force mission, and for that he’s grateful.
Raphael said in spite of the Louisiana heat the Soldiers managed their tasks, seized opportunities and took initiative.
“I’m proud of them,” he said.
Brafford said the JRTC rotation has helped prepare the 1-102nd for any existing or emerging threats.
“The 1-102nd will be ready to deploy worldwide in support of national objectives,” he stated.
This was the 1-102nd and 86th IBCT’s second JRTC rotation—the first prepared the IBCT for their 2010 deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The next step for the 1-102nd has yet to be determined.