CAMP EDWARDS, Mass. – Similar to a scene one can observe every day nearly 6,000 miles away, Massachusetts Army National Guard Soldiers patrol a village filled with Arabic speaking civilians while a call to prayers blared from speakers atop a mosque here in March, 2009. The scenario is so realistic, the Soldiers think they are in Iraq instead of the Maj. Jeffrey R. Calero Military Operations on Urban Terrain Training Site in Massachusetts.
The 101st Engineer Battalion, led by Lt. Col. Charles G. Cody, and the 211th Military Police Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Richard F. Johnson, spent over a year planning together for a comprehensive collective training period designed to prepare units for upcoming deployments in support of the Global War on Terror. These are the first battalion-sized units of the Massachusetts Army National Guard to train at Camp Edwards using the Army’s new pre-mobilization validation model.
Since reserve component mobilizations are scheduled to be no longer than one year in length, much of the training that once took place at mobilization sites now occurs at home station prior to mobilization. The Pre-Mobilization Training Assistance Element works hand-in-hand with mobilizing units to ensure Soldiers are trained to standard on Army Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills, bringing those units to a greater level of readiness than ever before. The PTAE has developed realistic, battle-focused training and uses trainers and observer controllers who have recently deployed to help units meet the new requirements.
The staff of the 101st and the 211th, working with the PTAE and others, developed scenario based lanes to train their Soldiers in base defense, urban operations, convoy survivability, IED-defeat techniques and close quarters battle. The 101st Engineers developed the templates for the scenarios, which included maps, graphics, route overlays, and safety briefings. They also built the individual movement techniques course and building facades used for convoy operations. These lanes are now part of the Camp Edwards digital trainer’s guide and are permanent training resources at Camp Edwards, Units conducting their own pre-mobilization training in the future can replicate the high level of training experienced by the engineers and military police.
“The two battalions have worked very closely together for the past year and that has paid huge dividends during annual training,” said Johnson. “We have accomplished an unprecedented level of realism and relevance here at Camp Edwards.”
To achieve the high level of realism, the battalions call upon subject matter experts and incorporate as many training aids and up-to-date training methods as possible, such as IED simulators, Ultimate Training Munitions marker rounds, and Arabic speaking role players.
The Joint Force Headquarters, Massachusetts Operations Directorate arranged for members of a mobile training team from the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization to offer in-depth training on methods to counter IEDs. The mission of JIEDDO is to focus all Department of Defense actions in support of combatant commanders’ and their respective Joint Task Forces’ efforts to defeat improvised explosive devices as weapons of strategic influence.
Combat veterans of the 182nd Engineer Company (Sapper) also trained the engineers and military police in IED awareness using knowledge they gained in Iraq. The 182nd performed route clearance missions from 2007 to 2008, as part of the first route clearance battalion in theater authorized to destroy IEDs in place.
The 972nd Military Police Company, which also deployed to Iraq from 2007 to 2008 performing a protective services detail mission for high level Iraqi government officials, provided knowledgeable Soldiers to act as trainers during the joint patrolling lane. Their real world experience greatly added to the realism of the event.
The Massachusetts Army National Guard’s Small Arms Readiness Training Section developed and presented a close quarters battle program of instruction for both units during their March annual training periods. The training for the Soldiers of the 211th culminated in a live-fire exercise at Camp Edwards’ new “shoot house,” marking the first time the new facility was used to its full capacity.
“This training has really prepared me for what to expect in our upcoming deployment,” said Sgt. She’lagh R. Dunbar, acting transportation section leader with the 211th Military Police Battalion. “I think that it has opened up the eyes of the Soldiers to fully understand the threats we have to overcome.”
The military police also received a real world orientation to the Iraqi theater of operations and exposure to U.S. Air Force intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities provided by the 101st Intelligence Squadron of the Massachusetts Air National Guard’s 102nd Intelligence Wing.
The Joint Force Headquarters, Massachusetts Information Management Directorate (J6) facilitated the development of a “digital headquarters” located in building 1213 on Camp Edwards using state-of-the-art digital communications equipment belonging to the 26th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. In addition to running local operations from there, the 211th was also able to connect with Camp Dodge in Johnston, Iowa and incorporate live training with the Army Battle Command System.
Select members of the staff of the 211th traveled to Fort Bliss, Texas to participate in a mission rehearsal exercise with the 89th Military Police Brigade while the rest of the battalion continued to train at Camp Edwards. While in Texas, the group kept in contact with the main body of the battalion by using a virtual tactical operations center set up on the Army Knowledge Online Website. All members of the staff were able to log on and share information from various locations, constantly keeping the commander informed.The depth and complexity of training support offered to the 101st and the 211th was unprecedented and resulted in an overwhelmingly positive training experience for the Soldiers ensuring they are well prepared to accomplish their missions.