Camp Edwards, Mass. - I had never been to an annual training. My friends thought I was going on a vacation paid for by the commonwealth as they only heard “Cape Cod” when I told them I would be gone for two weeks with the 126th Brigade Support Battalion. It was no vacation. It was something much more rewarding and if I could sum up my experience in one word it would be: Teamwork.
Teamwork is often an overused term and one that should be used with more discretion. However, it was evident from the start of our annual training (AT) that this word was appropriate for our time at Camp Edwards. With many of our Soldiers gone for deployments, at military occupational specialty (MOS) qualifying schools and alternate AT’s, our battalion had just over 100 Soldiers of widely varying MOS’s. They have to hone their MOS skills while maintaining tactical proficiency that will keep them alive in combat. With limited personnel numbers, a company level task force (TF) was created integrating all of the medical, signal, supply, transportation and maintenance units for annual training, which was named TF Viper.
TF Viper was responsible for executing combat logistical patrols (CLP’s) and humanitarian medical missions in conjunction with realistic enemy and civilian situations that patrols could face overseas. An opposing force (OPFOR) controlled by a training team in TF Mohawk (battalion headquarters), was constantly waiting for these TF Viper patrols to put their MOS and tactical skills to the test. Operating out of Tactical Training Base Kelley, TF Viper executed the troop leading procedures and refined standard operating procedures. Soldiers gained tactical proficiency in their battle drills. Logistics were transported and received, vehicles from both inside and outside TF Mohawk were recovered and maintained, and medical training was conducted on the training lanes at Falmouth Hospital and during sick call. Watching Soldiers from different companies and MOS’s come together was an amazing evolution during my time at Camp Edwards.
Additionally, the 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry was concurrently training at Camp Edwards. Realizing the training opportunities our units could create we, along with the 181st came up with some new coordinated scenarios for the Soldiers. B Company (181st) augmented some of our OPFOR elements, while TF Viper was tasked with providing logistics to 181st headquarters with D Company (181st) as a quick reaction force element. After getting attacked TF Viper elements coordinated directly with 181st battle space owners for help just as they would in a real combat situation. Combined after actions reviews were conducted with the 181st and many of the intricacies of coordinating with inorganic units in a combat situation were identified by both units.
More teamwork was shown by Detachment One, C Company of the Air Ambulance Unit that flies out of Camp Edwards. They eagerly showed the TF Viper Soldiers how to load a casualty onto their new Pave Hawk Helicopters at Otis Air National Guard Base. TF Viper executed medical evacuation missions later in the day and the pilots conducted several rotations ensuring the maximum training value for their crews and the Soldiers of the 126th BSB.
Lastly, the training would not have been possible if it were not for the coordination between the 126th BSB, the 26th Yankee Brigade and the staff at Camp Edwards. Training needs and requirements based on constant evaluations drove the scenarios and exercises as opposed to being inflexible to changes in the planned training calendar.
I was left with one overarching theme that was driven down from the leadership into the Soldiers ethos; and that was genuine teamwork. This was epitomized at the end of the training when Lt. Col. Thomas Stewart, commander of the 126th BSB, brought his battalion together to watch the movie Miracle about the teamwork of the 1980 U.S. Men’s Olympic Hockey Team defeating the Soviet Union. Stewart not only talked about this application of teamwork to the 126th internally, but our bigger role as a player in the National Guard and U.S. Army. Nothing could be more accurate for a support battalion… as Stewart said, “extra attention to resourcing your unit’s training enables us to train as we fight. The Battle Focused Training manual spells it out when it references the responsibilities of leaders to provide Soldiers with realistic, exciting, challenging and demanding training. Partnering with other units and agencies enables us to exponentially increase this realism.”
The 126th BSB showed me that they are capable of being the type of team players necessary to accomplish their missions and that this application of teamwork didn’t end with the 126th BSB; it is wide-spread throughout the Massachusetts National Guard.