CAMP EDWARDS, Mass. — The Massachusetts National Guard welcomed more than 80 veterans and distinguished retirees to tour the eXportable Combat Training Capability exercise here and celebrate the Army’s 235th birthday, June 14, 2010.
Retired Master Sgt. John H. Sutcliffe, a Battle of the Bulge veteran, was among the veterans on hand to see the state-of-the-art training showcased during the tour and as the oldest veteran in attendance, was instrumental in celebrating the Army birthday.
Sutcliffe was joined by Spc. Alfred Tripolone, public affairs specialist, 65th Press Camp Headquarters, for the cake-cutting ceremony which highlighted the Massachusetts National Guard’s recognition of the Army birthday.
Sutcliffe said he was very surprised and thankful to be included in the Army birthday ceremony.
Sutcliffe and the other veterans were treated to an information brief outlining the advanced training Soldiers of the Massachusetts National Guard are receiving during the XCTC exercise, followed by a brief question and answer period.
The group then boarded busses and took a tour of XCTC sites throughout the post, which included Wardak Village, the Battlefield Immersion forward operating base and Tactical Training Base Kelley.
XCTC is the largest pre-deployment training exercise conducted on Camp Edwards since World War II and consists of Soldiers training on a series of field exercises designed to simulate an overseas environment. The goal of this training is to provide high quality, realistic battlefield experience for approximately 1,200 Soldiers as they prepare for mobilization in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The visitors were shown Soldiers running through the individual movement techniques course and structures set up to resemble an Afghan settlement at Wardak Village, which is names for an actual town in Afghanistan.
Staff Sgt. Robert Carothers, noncommissioned officer in charge, Wardak village, provided a brief overview of the training and details on native speaking Afghan nationals working as interpreters for the training Soldiers.
Carothers said that having native speakers has enhanced the immersive effects of the training, providing Soldiers with valuable exposure to the language they will be working with during deployment.
“Ideally, each platoon has an interpreter with them,” said Carothers.
The tour continued with a stop at “The Beach,” as the Battlefield Immersion FOB is called, for a demonstration on vehicle born improvised explosive device simulators conducted by Joseph Jenkins, battlefield effects coordinator, WESTefx.
The group of veterans watched as one of their own detonated the effects package on a pick-up truck rigged to simulate a VBIED. With a loud crack a large plume erupted more than 25-feet into the air from the truck bed.
“I never thought that the training was this far advanced,” said retired Seaman Paul Burke, a small boat coxswain. “This training is definitely something people should know about.”
The XCTC tour concluded with a visit to TTB Kelley. The TTB is dedicated in memory of, Sgt. Michael Kelley, of the 101st Field Artillery , who was killed in Afghanistan, June 8, 2005. The TTB was constructed on an underutilized open area of land that many of the veterans knew as the “3600 Area.”
“This is fantastic, so much different from what we were able to do,” said retired Brig. Gen. William Labrie. “I am impressed with the operation and the quality of the NCOs.”
Labrie, a former Camp Edwards commander, said the visit brought back many memories and was like returning home.