The U.S. Army Reserve 383rd Quartermaster Battalion (QB), headquartered in El Paso, Texas, conducted a readiness focused field training exercise (FTX) April 4 - 7, 2019, in Dona Ana, New Mexico.
Time is always a challenge for the Army Reserve as traditional drilling soldiers only conduct their military duties one weekend a month with 14 to 29 additional training days to use sometime during the fiscal year. Field training exercises like this one allow units to maximize their training time, focusing on tasks and drills that build capability and increase their combat-readiness.
Lt. Col Marc Braswell is the commander of the 383rd QM BN. He said he planned this four-day FTX to get soldiers out of the classroom and into a realistic training environment.
"Soldiers need training on basic soldier skills so they have to get out of the reserve center,” said Braswell. “We have to get out of the classrooms and get into the field environment where we can have real combat training."
When Braswell took command a year ago, he saw a missed opportunity in the way the unit trained. He reorganized his weekend battle assemblies to allow the unit to go into a field environment every quarter.
"No one joins the army to sit in a classroom, soldiers want to get out and train,” said Braswell. “When I took command, I told the soldiers, if you [ever] feel like I’m wasting your time, and not giving you realistic training, you need to tell me. That’s the promise I made.”
The transition hasn’t been completely smooth, but that’s what Braswell expected, and it’s what he wanted. He explained that he wants his unit to hit bumps and work them out in training so they are ready and experienced if they are called upon for deployment.
"Bottom line is, we are going to make this happen,” said Braswell. “Whatever hiccups we have, whatever problems we encounter, those are natural parts of the growing process, so I expect friction but we are pushing through it.”
1st Sgt. Anthony Rogers, with the 356th Transportation Company, part of the 383rd QM BN, said he had challenges to overcome to get his soldiers to the FTX. As a new Ready-Force unit, they are still being filled with equipment and only had five vehicles, not nearly enough to carry all their soldiers to the field.
“We will overcome it by pure will and ingenuity,” laughed Rogers. “Our higher command knows the challenge, and we are working it, but the mission doesn’t stop.”
Rogers and the 356th’s brand new commander, Capt. Zachary Wise, coordinated with other units in the BN for transportation support. That’s exactly the kind of solutions Braswell expects his leaders to come up with.
"It comes down to a paradigm shift,” said Braswell, “I am helping people understand that this is what we are going to do now and this is a different experience than they’ve had the past four years.”
Another challenge came once the communications team arrived at the training site. They set up two OE-254 communication antennas and the command post's communication kit, then immediately ran into a problem with power.
"Right now we are trying to get another generator so we can run on our own,” said Spc. Demetrus Jacobs, a signal support specialist with the 383rd QM BN. “When we go to the field, we put out heads together to make sure we have everything we need and make it work.”
Jacobs prefers field training to sitting in a classroom. He recognizes the value it brings to him and his fellow soldiers. He says it’s important because his unit has to be ready to mobilize and deploy if they are needed."I think hands on is always more valuable," said Jacobs. "You get more out of it than sitting in a class.”
Braswell feels very positive about these FTXs. Soldiers are practicing their skills, morale is going up and the units are overcoming challenges. Most importantly, the BN’s combat-readiness is improving.
"If we don’t get the soldiers out here to train on these tasks, we are really cheating them,” said Braswell. “We have to stick with it and move forward because just getting the BN out here and working the process is a win.”