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More than 2,500 Fla. Guard members complete combat training

By Sgt. Michael Baltz | 107th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment | Aug. 21, 2019

CAMP SHELBY, Miss. – More than 2,500 Florida National Guard members with the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) endured two weeks of intense training through oppressive humidity and long hours to successfully complete the eXportable Combat Training Capability (XCTC) exercise Wednesday.

The Army National Guard's XCTC program is a company- and platoon-level field training exercise (FTX) designed to certify a unit's proficiencies in coordination with meeting their readiness year objectives.

"As part of the sustainment readiness model, we're required to maintain a certain level of readiness," said Col. Julio Acosta, 53rd IBCT commander."The success is making sure all the platoons are validated. We've done that. We've met that threshold." 

XCTC is a simulation training program that satisfies a unit's requirements, which are derived from its mission essential task list (METL). 

"This training allows us to see if we are at a level of satisfactory proficiency," said Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Cains, infantry platoon sergeant with C Company, 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment. 

Throughout the training, Soldiers endured challenging weather conditions. The heat index continuously exceeded triple digits, occasionally rising above 110. 

"I think one of the hardest things we had to get adjusted to is the environmental conditions," said Acosta."We are [accustomed] to operating in a warm climate, but the reality of it is that this is unprecedented in terms of heat [and] just being exposed day in and day out. Its been pretty tough up front." 

Soldiers were able refit every few days, which helped ensure their ability to get the most out of this valuable training. 

"Our time here is extremely valuable," said Cains."Each exercise or iteration is an opportunity for [Soldiers] to measure themselves against the standard."

The two-week exercise concluded with a three-day brigade level FTX to assist with preparing for the unit's upcoming Joint Readiness Training (JRTC) at Fort Polk, Louisiana, scheduled for June 2020. JRTC is a large-scale, all-encompassing military training scenario that will test the 53rd IBCT's ability to deploy to combat.

"The FTX fine-tunes your [tactics, techniques and procedures] as a company," said 1st Lt. Matthew Wagner, 2 Battalion, 116th Field Artillery officer."[The FTX] was molded as something we could do in a real combat situation."

The FTX centered around three separate objective points where the brigade forcibly engaged opposing forces, which were comprised of Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and simulated a peer or near-peer enemy. 

"We have limited touch points throughout the year for us to be able to work as a brigade," said Acosta."We see the field training exercise as a cumulative training event for this rotation. This is about as close as we can replicate conditions at JRTC."

During the FTX, Soldiers assaulted the objectives after being transported by UH-60 Black Hawks and H-47 Chinooks. Once the mock city was controlled by the 53rd IBCT, the FTX and XCTC were both identified as successes. 

"We have some great volunteers. They have put a lot on the line to be here," said Acosta."The majority of (Soldiers in) our formation are traditional Guard members, and they leave behind jobs, families, et cetera. I want to make sure that doesn't get lost on senior leaders. They make sacrifices to be here, to be ready and to stand watch."