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Minnesota National Guard
Commanders prepare for daunting desert challenge

NTC FORT IRWIN, Calif. - More than 40 of the company commanders that comprise the eight battalions under the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, joined brigade and battalion staff for the Leadership Training Program at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, from Feb. 16 to Feb. 23, 2016.

For six of the eight days of LTP, company commanders are coached on all of the essential tasks they will need to excel at in order to effectively lead their companies during their National Training Center rotation in June.

"Our program is based on some of the most important things they will do here," said Mike Pemrick, senior company commander coach. "There are lots of lessons learned from previous rotations - this will help them in the way they perform."

Topics covered in classroom training, seminars, reconnaissance and practical exercises include sustainment, breaching, establishing an assembly area, direct fire planning, obstacle integration and operation orders, to name a few. The lessons, based off of Army doctrine, are integrated with the actual problem sets they will see during their rotation.

"It's like drinking through a firehose," said Capt. Justin Windschitl, commander of Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 125th Field Artillery. "And we're trying to figure out the details like how do we do casualty evacuations with only two litter vehicles that are full of supplies, and how to get resupply."

Included in the program were at least two tours of "The Box," the term used for the massive, desert training area the brigade will operate in during their rotation. During the tour, company commanders experience firsthand the difficulties the unforgiving landscape will present while going toe-to-toe with a modern opposition force.

"You figure the enemy gets the home field advantage," said Eric Vaught, battery commander coach. "The recons give a good idea of what the terrain is like, what the routes are going to be like."

For brigade Soldiers here, the reality and enormity of their rotation has begun to sink in. Following the LTP, only six complete training days remain to impart their new-found knowledge on their leaders, peers and subordinates back in Minnesota.

"This environment is unforgiving," said Col. Robert Intress, 1/34th ABCT commander. "NTC is a test of character, it's how you do you deal with adversity and embrace the experience as a world-class training opportunity."

February 25, 2016
by Staff Sgt. Patrick Loch
1st Armored Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs



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