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Citizen Soldiers train for deployment

In today's Army, deploying units are comprised of not just active-duty Soldiers, but also Reserves and National Guardsmen.

About 150 "citizen Soldiers" from the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade trained during a 10-day exercise here Nov. 7-16 for their upcoming Iraq deployment next year.

Soldiers from 11 states, including the 34th CAB's headquarters in Minnesota make up the unit, according to its commander Lt. Col. Clay Brock.

Brock said the purpose of the aviation training exercise is to replicate conditions the unit will face in Iraq, particularly for Soldiers serving in staff positions.

Reserve-component units generally deploy for about one year. Previously, the units would train for four or five months prior to deploying, but this is just the first of three training exercises the unit will participate in before deploying next year, Brock said.

"In order to maximize the time in theater, we had to change how we do business. No longer can we afford for a unit to be on a deployed status and train for four or five months - we have to do that training at our home station," he said. "We do a lot of training at the different states to help preset the conditions for success at the mobilization station where we focus more on the collective training aspects."

With the training spread out over a longer period of time, Soldiers get to spend more time at home.

The 34th CAB Command Sgt. Maj. Gary Thesing said this training exercise is the first time the Soldiers will use Command Posts of the Future digital systems and the technology they'll have downrange, which will be invaluable.

Lt. Joe Munger, a 34th CAB intelligence officer from Farmington, Minn., said the training exercise gave him a chance to work with other people in his section. Munger said he deployed to Baghdad previously and the upcoming deployment will be his second tour.

"(The exercise) reinforces teambuilding. In a National Guard unit, we don't always get to train together doing what we're going to do in theater," he said. "This exercise tests our ability to analyze the data coming in and we have to produce intelligence for the command and for the pilots so they can perform the missions. This is an outstanding facility. The (technology) is phenomenal."

Sgt. Christian Gay, 34th CAB flight operations noncommissioned officer from Hammond, La., agreed this exercise brings the Soldiers from different states together and gets them in the same mindset.

"It helps build our relationships with our co-units from other states instead of being thrown into a mix at the mobilization station," he said. "This training is a lot different than what I received before (my Iraq deployment in 2004-2005). We didn't have joint exercises. This is a very good exercise for us."

One 34th CAB Soldier who is new to deployment preparation, Sgt. Deshaundra Green, an administrative specialist from Dallas, said she received real-world training during the exercise.

"I've learned a lot. (The trainers) are throwing a lot of different scenarios at me to get me in the mind frame and to ensure I'm knowledgeable," she said. "I was a little nervous before I got here, but the experience has been very enjoyable."

Assisting in the training were members of the 1st Brigade, 75th Battle Command Training Division from Houston and the 166th Aviation Brigade from Fort Riley, Kan.

There is a key difference between the two units' responsibilities, according to Col. Robert Samborski, senior observer/controller/trainer. The 166th Avn. Bde. will stay with the 34th CAB during its training, through the time it mobilizes to the time they deploy. The 75th BCTD is mission-specific and only comes to training events and augments and helps with the training process.

"That's a dynamic piece because the 166th Avn. Regt. will be with the 34th CAB until they deploy, and that's really important," Samborski said.

The 1st Bde., 75th BCTD representatives' goal is to ensure their training goes smoothly and guides them through a yearlong training process, according to Col. (P) Jimmie Jaye Wells, 1st Bde, 75th BCTD commander

"Our function is to plan, coordinate and execute staff training and all that encompasses combat units, combat support units and combat service support units, in support of what is called the Army Force Generation Model. That dictates where units are in a training cycle," Wells said. "We specifically work with units prior to their departure for deployments and we assist them in a yearlong process. We take them through a series of culminating events that takes them through a "˜crawl, walk, run' method of training."

The Soldiers must complete realistic missions and use accurate and up-to-date terrain maps of the area while the trainers incorporate stressors into the different exercises to allow the Soldiers to examine the situation and make the best decision on a minute's notice, Wells said.

"The pilots get to fly over an exact replica (of the) terrain they'll see in Iraq," Wells said.

Sgt. Maj. Scott Bailey, 1st Battalion, 291st Aviation Regiment, 166th Aviation Brigade, said his unit monitors the 34th CAB throughout the military decision-making process.

"(The 34th CAB) starts in very small-scale operations that will culminate into one large event," he said. "At the end, we'll have an (after action review) where we'll give them tips on what they did well or what they need to improve on."

The value of the experience the 34th CAB Soldiers receive here is immeasurable, Bailey added.

The unit is training at Fort Rucker's Aviation Warfighting Simulation Center because of its ability to train a large number of Soldiers using the same equipment they'll use downrange, Samborski said.

The facility has all the tools the Soldiers will have in-country and replicates specific scenarios to give them hands-on experience before they deploy. Fort Rucker offers graduate-level training, according to Samborski.

"This is the premier aviation training facility," he said.

By Michelle Owens
Army Flier Staff Writer

Article source: http://www.MontgomeryAdvertiser.com/



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