ARLINGTON, Va. – Ensuring Soldiers receive the training they need is one of the key components of maintaining unit readiness and the Army National Guard's regional training institutes are often an integral component of providing that training.
"Each state has an RTI and that RTI is missioned through the schools process from [Headquarters, Department of the Army] on down to train a certain course or set of courses to meet Army National Guard and active component requirements," said Army Lt. Col. Jon Gutauskas, chief of the Army Guard's Institutional Training Branch, which oversees the RTIs.
Those RTIs provide training on a variety of subjects ranging from leadership courses needed for promotion to functional training on specific systems, equipment and procedures as well as courses for those transitioning to a new military operational specialty.
"Really, [the RTI] is meant to get after the training need, whether that's MOS qualification or professional military education or functional training," said Gutauskas.
While Army Guard Soldiers make up the bulk of RTI students, active component and Army Reserve Soldiers also attend courses as well.
"The RTIs are under the One Army School System umbrella, which means regional training institutes can train active, reserve and Guard Soldiers," he said. "Most of our throughput are Guard members, but we have a pretty large active component throughput as well, mainly through our professional military education courses and some of the functional courses."
Initially, RTIs were geared toward meeting Army Guard training needs in each specific state, said Gutauskas. Now, as part of the One Army School System, the courses taught at each RTI are based on Total Army training needs and requirements.
"The Army National Guard RTIs are the Army Guard equivalent of those schoolhouses that fall under the [Army Training and Doctrine Command] center of excellence umbrella," said Gutauskas. "Our capability is inline with and teaches the same coursework. We're a training capability for the force that just happens to reside in the Army National Guard."
The RTI mission as a whole has grown, said Gutauskas, adding that RTI course missioning is based on total training demand. One course that has seen growth, he said, is the Basic Leader Course, which prepares junior enlisted Soldiers to become noncommissioned officers.
"We've increased to 17,000 quotas," said Gutauskas. "If that exceeds capability across our current BLC-teaching RTIs, then we'll add another location to teach that course."
The Unit Movement Officer Course is another example, said Gutauskas. Within the Army Guard the course was solely taught at the National Guard Professional Education Center at Camp Joseph T. Robinson, Arkansas.
"The demand for UMO has grown to beyond what PEC could provide," he said. "They couldn't do any more courses, so we've expanded [to other locations]."
That growth speaks to the quality of the instructors at the RTIs, said Gutauskas.
"It speaks volumes," he said. "We're being recognized that we're really good at training and instructing and teaching and we're being asked to do more. I think it's awesome."
Gutauskas said he sees continued growth within the RTIs, but targeted, specific growth.
"The future is going to be more targeted missioning of the RTIs to better meet the demand signal of the field," he said, adding that may mean less specific niche schools and "more total enterprise courseware."
"For example, the RTI in Florida may teach less Army emergency management training for hurricane response, because that's very niche to the Southeast," Gutauskas said. "It may run more Basic Leaders Course [iterations], because that's a national demand signal."
Regardless of the courses taught, flexibility is one of the key elements inherent to the RTIs, said Gutauskas.
"The Infantry School [at Fort Benning, Georgia] teaches infantry school stuff," he said. "If I want to grow and want to teach, say, unit movement officer, I've got to go to the Transportation School at Fort Lee, Virginia."
With the RTIs, Gutauskas said, both courses of instruction could be taught at a single location.
Part of that flexibility comes from individual RTIs being linked together to form a larger pool of instructors, said Gutauskas, adding that instructors from one RTI can augment other RTIs when needed.
"We can look across the portfolio [of RTIs] and reach across to another RTI academy to get the schoolhouse augmented for a little while," he said, adding that RTI cadre members bring with them a tremendous knowledge base.
That experience, in part, comes from the ability of instructors to rotate between the RTI and units within their state.
"We have the ability, as an organization, to take somebody from the podium and put him or her back into the force to get that additional line experience and then pull them back to the RTI," said Gutauskas.
That allows the instructor to grow while taking on new roles and additional leadership and training opportunities, said Gutauskas.
And training, he said, is what it comes down to.
"Training is always at the forefront of what we do," said Gutauskas. "It's the foundation of readiness. Period."