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NEWS | July 5, 2022

Virginia National Guard Soldiers Train in Iowa

Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

CAMP DODGE, Iowa – More than 30 Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to Alpha Company, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, conducted annual training at the Army National Guard Sustainment Training Center in Iowa June 5-18.

“Alpha Company is a traditional logistics company. We supply fuel, water and ammo,” said Capt. Demetrius Hollis, Alpha Company commander. “Camp Dodge allows Soldiers to train specifically on their military occupational specialties (MOS), and that’s something Soldiers have been asking for.”

“We’re so accustomed to going to Fort Pickett; this is a great opportunity to get away,” said 1st Sgt. Otis Brown. “We do great training there, but this puts them in a different environment.”

In addition to a headquarters element, Alpha Company includes a transportation platoon capable of moving and delivering logistics packages, a water and fuel platoon, and a platoon capable of staffing supply support activities.

Hollis said one of the biggest gripes from Soldiers is that they’re not able to do their specific job at home station.

“We’ll go to Fort Pickett and they’ll fire their weapons or go through certain types of training, but they won’t get to learn their specific MOS,” he said. “At Camp Dodge, they’re given the chance to train. The supply folks are here, the water dogs are on a mission, the 88Ms are given the chance to get on the road and they’re moving equipment from point A to point B, and Soldiers are here learning how to dispatch vehicles. Everyone’s getting a chance to train.” 

Brown said the training was a great experience for new and experienced Soldiers. 

“We all can learn something new, and we’ve learned a lot we can take home,” he said.

While Fort Pickett provides great training opportunities, traveling to an unfamiliar location tests the unit in ways training in Virginia can’t.

“At Fort Pickett, you know where everything is,” Hollis said. “Here, there’s that fear of the unknown, and when there’s that fear, they pay more attention, they want to do a good job. Everyone is on their A-game. They know they’re going to come out better Soldiers when they come out of this.”

Spc. Chuck Onuegbu, an ammunition specialist from Charlottesville, said it had been a solid learning experience.

“Here, I can do my job and focus on that, then go back to the barracks and come back the next day and do my job,” he said. “In this environment, I’m doing better with the things I was rushing with paperwork-wise, which forms to fill out. It’s been a solid learning experience.”

It’s not just the location that provided a great training opportunity but also the Sustainment Training Center staff and their methods.

“The staff here is watching you and giving you feedback in real-time,” Hollis said. “Sometimes they’ll let you do the wrong thing over and over to see if you’ll adjust. Sometimes they’ll see if you can think on your own. They’ve been great to work with.”

Spc. Allie Champion has only been in the unit for a year, but this experience was very different for her compared to last year’s annual training.

“Coming here has given me the opportunity to learn my job and see what it’s like in an actual Army atmosphere,” the ammunition and stock accounting specialist said. “We’re learning so much from our instructor. It’s very enlightening for me.”

Because a number of the unit’s Soldiers were asked to deploy with other Virginia Army National Guard units over the past year, many of Alpha Company’s Soldiers had to fill positions they wouldn’t usually fill and perform duties they wouldn’t normally perform.

“Here, I’m in charge of more, so I’m pushed out of my comfort zone,” said Spc. Jacob Hughes, a motor transport operator. “You never learn anything if you’re comfortable. I think coming here is a big step for me and a lot of the Soldiers. Coming here has been pretty phenomenal.”