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Combat simulations used for the first time at Camp Edwards

By Maj. Brett Walker | Massachusetts Army National Guard | Aug. 9, 2019

CAMP EDWARDS, Mass. – The Massachusetts Army National Guard performed a military exercise on Cape Cod, July 27 - Aug. 8 aimed at training and evaluating combat support units engaged in a campaign against a modern, professional enemy force.

Patriot Crucible 2019 marks the first time in decades the military has used pyrotechnics, smoke, CS gas and tracer rounds at the Cape Cod military training grounds.

Camp Edwards, the site at which Patriot Crucible 2019 is taking place, is the Army portion of Joint Base Cape Cod. Other instillations on Joint Base Cape Cod include Otis Air Force Base and Coast Guard Station Cape Cod. Camp Edwards consists of 33,000 acres of land, including maneuver space as well as weapon ranges and simulation centers.

"There are enough facilities here to support an exercise of this size," said Army Maj. Alexander McDonough, the Plans and Training Officer for Camp Edwards. 

Patriot Crucible 2019 is an intense, two-week field exercise focused on preparing Army logistics and support units from across the northeast to participate in major combat operations against a near-peer enemy equipped with artillery, helicopters and trained troops. More than 800 Soldiers from the Massachusetts and New Jersey Army National Guard are participating in the event. They include truck drivers, firefighters, chemical experts and military police.

Capt. Kyunghun Woo, an officer in 1st Army (East), is the officer in charge of observer controllers for Patriot Crucible 2019. Woo said this exercise involves a greater variety of units and Soldiers than he is accustomed to seeing in battalion-level training exercises. Woo's fulltime assignment for 1st Army is to observe and evaluate National Guard units during field exercises. In a typical year, he will evaluate five exercises.

"Overall, this exercise, from what I see, is well planned," said Woo. "This is set up to allow us to evaluate their Mission Essential Task List."

The Massachusetts National Guard planned and resourced this exercise, but coordinated with evaluation experts from 1st Army throughout the process.

"I was closely working with Maj. DiCrescenzo and Maj. Mulhern on this planning, including overall planning review," said Woo.

Majors David DiCrescenzo and Robert Mulhern are the planning officers for the Massachusetts National Guard assigned to Patriot Crucible. They report spending only $309,503.84 to plan, resource and execute the entire event. They prepared this exercise to prioritize training Soldiers in logistic and service support to the combat arms, which distinguishes Patriot Crucible from traditional large-scale field exercises.

"For units to replicate the hybrid threat, it is very difficult with the resources they have internally," said Mulhern. "So what we've done is try to combine those resources as a state and as a region and put them into an exercise." 

The exercise does require participating Soldiers to defend themselves from enemy attacks, but most of the training tasks relate to other critical aspects of military campaigns. For instance, Soldiers are establishing field fueling points, enemy detention centers and mobile mess halls, all under austere conditions. 

Some of the training tasks in Patriot Crucible involve partnerships between the Massachusetts National Guard and other organizations at the local and international levels. Military Police are working with Barnstable County sheriff deputies to refine their systems of guarding and caring for prisoners. Army engineers are repairing a fish and game clubhouse on Camp Edwards. Military officers from Kenya are assisting in battle staff functions through the State Partnership Program. 

"When most units go to annual training, they are limited to what they can do on their own," said McDonough. "Patriot Crucible allows units to work across MOSs [Military Occupational Specialties] and achieve Mission Essential Tasks they could not do alone."

"The benefit [of Patriot Crucible] is it helps build partnerships between our states in the northeast as well as with our 1st Army partners providing feedback and evaluations for the units going through the training," said Mulhern. 

To increase realism in the training, observer controllers are using illumination flares, artillery simulators and smoke grenades. McDonough said it has been more than two decades since those materials were used in military training on Camp Edwards.
Some instruments, such as tracer rounds, are being used on Camp Edwards for the first time ever during Patriot Crucible. Environmental and safety staff are present and monitoring the effects of those devices. 

"Improving on this exercise would involve using more technology," said DiCrescenzo. "We strive to incorporate aspects of the current and future operational environment to get Soldiers to think what it would be like to be in combat with a near-peer competitor."

This year's Patriot Crucible exercise involves Army National Guard units from two states – Massachusetts and New Jersey – as well as evaluators from the 174th Infantry Brigade of the full-time component of the Army. The National Guard units are evaluated on the same standards and missions as their regular Army equivalents. 

"The proficiency of units I see in this is better than what I normally see," said Woo. He then suggested the exercise could be improved by making it larger and including more units.