JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - The Soldiers of the 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, are training at the Orchard Combat Training Center, south of Boise, Idaho, this month, demonstrating their ability to conduct fiscally responsible, multi-component training as part of the Army’s Total Force Policy, while simultaneously conducting gunnery tasks and supporting their division’s concept for integrated training strategy.
“It’s a multi-component operation,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Sean Mayo, a native of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and senior enlisted adviser for 1-14 Cav, 3-2 Stryker Brigade, 7th Infantry Division, out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord. “Basically, you have the Idaho National Guard, the 191st Training Support Brigade, who is an active unit, and us; we’re playing OPFOR (the opposing force) for them.”
The exercise, which is an eXportable Combat Training Capability operation, is overseen by the 191st Infantry Brigade, First Army Division West, also from Joint Base Lewis-McChord; along with units from the Army National Guard, the Army Reserve, and the Active Component, all working in unison toward a common goal, which is to conduct realistic training while relearning the tenets of the Total Force Policy.
“This is a fight that we knew pretty well 10 years ago, but over several deployments we’ve gone away from that,” said Lt. Col. Brad Christopher, 116th Infantry Brigade’s operations officer and a Boise native. “So, we’re re-energizing that thing that we knew, and applying the new systems that are available to us. It continues what we’ve established over the last 10 years in Afghanistan and Iraq; it’s an opportunity for us to combine forces and re-engage the heavy fight, something that is not new, but is relearning for both forces.”
The Total Force Policy was initially implemented in the early 1970s, during the twilight years of the Vietnam War. It establishes policy for the integration of the Army’s Active Component and Reserve Components as a Total Force, according to the Army’s website. It fell into disuse during the first decade of the 21st century, as counterinsurgency operations increased in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At the heart of the Total Force Policy, is the simple premise that the Army will do its job with less, and that the National Guard and Army Reserve will take a more direct role in national defense. In keeping with the basis of the Total Force Policy, “Warhorse” battalion, 1-14 Cavalry, is doing more with less while at Orchard Combat Training Center, by conducting gunnery training in addition to its duties as OPFOR.
”(The gunnery training) is just as important as what else we’re doing out here,” said Lt. Col. Robert Halvorson, 1-14 Cavalry commander. “The 7th [Infantry Division] is leading the way to put the precision in Stryker gunnery that’s never existed. Working with the Maneuver Center of Excellence, 7th [Infantry Division] is working hard to make gunnery something it’s never been in the Stryker community. As the first cavalry squadron taking part in that, we’ve got a responsibility to do it right.
“Conducting operations this way is cost efficient, and if you do it correctly, and maintain your own training objectives in support of your METL (Mission-Essential Task List), you will actually get training out here that’s only rivaled by NTC (the National Training Center, at Fort Irwin, California),” he continued.
Mayo said this is also the squadron’s first opportunity to capitalize on the lessons members learned while at the NTC, in January.
“We took a bunch of AAR (After-Action Report) comments and critiques, things we learned about ourselves at the National Training Center, and we talked a lot about them, but we didn’t have the opportunity to shake out the bugs,” he said. “This provides us a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on the lessons learned and things we needed to work on coming out of NTC.”
The cavalry’s OPFOR counterparts, the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry Brigade, agreed that this year’s eXportable Combat Training Capability operation provided their unit a tremendous opportunity as well.
“I think what it has highlighted is that we want to be here,” Capt. Craig Isaacson, a Bloomington, Minnesota, native and company commander for Charlie Company, 2-136 Infantry, said of the exercise. “We want to train hard, and that our Soldiers are paying attention, taking notes and trying to perfect their craft, so that when they get called up to support the active duty, they can expect that we are those professionals who show up and can do the same things that they’re doing.”