ORCHARD COMBAT TRAINING CENTER, Idaho Active Army and Idaho National Guard units have spent the last month at the Orchard Combat Training Center in Idaho as the Army continues its total force integration of active, National Guard and reserve units.
The 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, an Idaho Army National Guard unit is training at the Orchard Combat Training Center, a sprawling training area outside of Boise, Idaho that covers nearly 150,000 acres. They are joined by Soldiers from the 191st Infantry Brigade, an active duty unit from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, who are serving as observers, coaches and trainers for the exercise.
The Army’s Total Force Policy took shape in 2012 and joins the Army's active, National Guard and reserve components to create one integrated operational force.
“For the last 13 years of combat there wasn’t a separate Army reserve component area of operations and an active duty Army area of operation,” said Col. James Danna III, the 191st brigade commander.
Danna explained that an important part of the training at the OCTC was the mostly active duty Soldiers of his unit working as observers, coaches and trainers while assisting the units of the 116th as they completed missions and training events during their time in the field.
“You have that extra set of eyes watching the unit preform the tasks they are training to do,” said Danna. “We are looking at it from different angles and then showing the team what they did right and what they can improve on. If there is something that needs improvement, we then coach them on techniques on how to correct that.”
“It’s not about telling them what to do, the chain of command does that, it’s about coaching and pitching ideas to the unit,” he added.
Col. Russell Johnson, the 116th CBCT commander, said that the observer-coach-trainer program and the Soldiers involved were very important to the success of the training occurring at the OCTC.
“The observer-coach-trainer program has matured significantly because I think the cultural understanding has improved between the active and reserve components,” said Johnson. “What I have seen is that they spend a great deal of their time on the training part of it now, where in the past they did more observing and controlling. It’s important to have that training, mentoring and coaching aspect.”
Johnson said having the cultural understanding between active and National Guard Soldiers is crucial when units are looking to improve their performance in a short time period.
Danna agreed, noting that one of the biggest training constraints for a guard or reserve unit is time.
“They only have so many days a year to train whereas active duty Soldiers have 365,” said Danna. “So when they are out here on these lanes we have got to get that efficiency up on a short time table. If we have the proper Soldiers there to help coach and train them along the way we can increase that proficiency faster.”
Capt. Christopher R. Miller, a company commander with the 116th CBCT, said it was essential for his Soldiers to use their time at the training center to learn and grow as a unit as much as possible.
“Trying to fit in the training that an active duty unit does throughout the year into a short time frame makes for some very long days… but it’s motivating training and my Soldiers, they seem to be having fun with it,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of growth. On day one it was ‘how do we keep our tanks in a wedge?’ to now where we have that down and have moved on to live fire exercises.”
Miller also noted that part of his unit’s growth stems from feedback from the Soldiers of the 191st.
“This is kind of a once in a career opportunity for some of these guys, because it is so expensive and time intensive,” he said. “That’s why it’s good to have a different perspective when you’re out here… it’s important to get a different viewpoint from some active duty Soldiers when we do have the chance to come out here and train.”
Johnson said making the most of this opportunity was vital because the training was going to prepare his brigade for an upcoming training rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.
“It’s important to sustain the practices that we learn here … so we don’t spend the first few days relearning everything that we’ve gone through here,” said Johnson. “We will utilize the products as well as the education gained here … and try to develop and expand those throughout the next year as we go forward.”