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Two years of hard work pays off for Red Bulls at NTC
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. - With the majority of the Soldiers from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, having already returned home - and each Soldier set to have returned by July 3 - the brigade is closing the book on National Training Center rotation 16-07 and looking forward to its ready year in 2017.
"The training the brigade received and conducted was among the hardest and most realistic that the U.S. Army offers," said Col. Robert Intress, commander of the 1/34th ABCT. "I am incredibly proud of our performance ... we have been extremely successful and safe!"
In addition to the nearly two years of planning and training leading up to the rotation, the brigade's mission at NTC consisted of four phases: logistics involving the movement of 1,500 pieces of equipment and 6,000 Soldiers to Fort Irwin, California; Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration; force-on-force field exercise; and regeneration.
Logistical execution began in early May, several weeks before the bulk of Soldiers from the 1/34th ABCT and supporting units were set to arrive. Soldiers with the 347th Regional Support Group first loaded and secured more than 300 wheeled vehicles, 350 tracked vehicles and 1,400 containers onto 500 railcars at the Camp Ripley railhead. A few days later, these items arrived at the Yermo Railhead Annex at Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, California. Once the equipment was downloaded, Soldiers began convoy operations down the Mannex Trail, a 30-mile trek through the Mojave Desert bridging the final leg of the journey to Fort Irwin.
"We've been preparing for this incredibly complex movement plan since we were notified of our rotation nearly two years ago," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 David Mellon, brigade mobility officer for the 1/34th ABCT. "We've invested countless hours, and enlisted the support of hundreds of Service members, to accomplish this feat."
The second phase began in early June, when nearly 6,000 Soldiers from 18 states arrived at the Rotational Unit Bivouac Area on Fort Irwin. Arriving in stages, 350 chartered bus movements and 90 flights brought Soldiers from muster formations across the nation.
The five-day RSOI period - a period of time that was "contested" by the opposition force and included a protest at the gate, mock media engagements and several other battle drills - was the time to prepare section equipment and vehicles for the 14-day field exercise in the "The Box." Soldiers were consumed with the drawing of additional vehicles from the Fort Irwin motor pool, the installation of Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement Systems, unloading of shipping containers, packing individual and section equipment and conducting various live-fire training events.
All the while, the brigade was supported by the 347th RSG, which acted as the "White Cell." Everything from scanning Soldier's ID cards to hauling away trash, Soldiers of the 347th RSG maintained a high quality of life for Soldiers inhabiting this "mini city" that sprung up in a few short days. In addition to providing two hot meals per day during the RSOI phase, the 347th RSG received and escorted the many distinguished visitors that visited to witness the brigade's training - representatives that included Gen. Robert Abrams, commanding general of U.S. Army Force Command, and Representative Tim Walz.
Finally, on Day 4 of RSOI, battalions began rolling out of RUBA and into the vast expanse of Mojave Desert known as "The Box" - a hostile training area the size of Rhode Island that includes mountainous terrain and 110 degree heat. By "uncoiling" company- and battalion-sized elements out of RUBA in a process that took nearly 36 hours, hundreds of vehicles from dozens of units were able to tactically convoy into "Atropia," the mock country in which the training scenario was to take place.
In the scenario, Atropia, a U.S. ally, was on the verge of war with separatist factions wreaking havoc in the region and the "Donovian" hostile invaders amassing on the northern border - both groups were played by the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, a regiment dedicated to contesting brigades that enter "The Box."
"The movement means the Brigade will be headed into an unfamiliar area where the opposition force has the distinct advantage of knowing the terrain very well and have had a chance to be acclimated to the heat," said Spc. Travis Pugh, a dismounted Infantryman for the 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 194th Armored Regiment. "We are entering their playground, so we have to be on our toes at all times and never get complacent."
Upon entering "The Box," Soldiers were thrown into a combat scenario and 24-hour operations began. Each of the battalions were under constant threat of attack - artillery, mortars, chemical agents, IEDs and of course direct opposition by the role-playing separatist and Donovian forces. Brigade and battalion staffs were furiously writing up plans to clear mock cities, provide security and engage the enemy. And while maneuver battalions were executing the plans, civil affairs teams were sent out to coordinate with key leaders from the Atropian government and role-playing non-governmental organizations. Two brigade support battalions distributed fuel, water, food and occasionally fresh fruit to keep the fight going.
Every function found in an armored combat brigade - engineering, infantry, sustainment, armor, artillery, cavalry, legal, personnel - was utilized.
And finally, after two weeks practicing field hygiene, experiencing sleep deprivation, sleeping on the ground, in trailers, or wherever a soft spot could be found, the brigade began its movement back to RUBA.
"Although we experienced heat up to 116 degrees and 50 miles per hour winds while drinking 100 degree water, eating nothing but MREs and not showering for more than 14 days, the motivation, excitement and willingness to improve every day makes me humble and proud," said Intress. "Before we arrived I said that NTC will test your character - and we all passed that test."
In phase four, dubbed regeneration, Soldiers once again began the nearly unprecedented logistical operation of transporting personnel and equipment out of Fort Irwin and back to home station. Gear was repacked, and railcars reloaded. Upon receipt of items back home, maintenance teams will be working to ensure all equipment is once again at peak operation - necessary to match Soldier readiness and equipment capability as the 1/34th ABCT enters its "ready" year in 2017.
To utilize the elite training and readiness of the 1/34th ABCT in 2017, the U.S. Army has tagged the brigade for two major training exercises in Europe - Saber Strike 17 and Immediate Response 17.
"I want to give a special thank you to all the families, employers, educators, Yellow Ribbon Networks and Yellow Ribbon Companies that support our great Soldiers of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team," said Intress. "Without your support, we could not do any of this! You all have my admiration and thanks."
July 1, 2016 by Staff Sgt. Patrick Loch
1st Armored Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs
Posted: 2017-03-24 10:19 AM CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Every spring Camp Ripley begins its annual controlled burn program to help reduce the risk of wildfire during training.
"Usually the burns are completed every spring before the summer annual training season begins," said Tim Notch, training area coordinator on Camp Ripley. "However, the warmer weather conditions provide a nice opportunity for preventative burns earlier this season."
As in years past Camp Ripley will conduct controlled burns on approximately 13,000 acres of the 53,000-acre military reservation. The burns are done in coordination with the staffs of the Camp Ripley Department of Public Works and the Camp Ripley Environmental Department along with support from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Posted: 2017-03-23 09:46 AM DULUTH, Minn. - Pfc. Trevor Nelson received the Minnesota Distinguished Recruiting Ribbon and a Minnesota Recruiting and Retention Battalion medallion for excellence from Command Sgt. Maj. Curtis Serbus, March 18, 2017, at the Duluth Armory. Nelson earned these awards as part of the online referral system, Leads 2 Enlistment for referring four friends who have joined the Minnesota National Guard.
"I talked to some buddies in my school about the Guard. They liked the benefits, so I put their info in the app and let my recruiter take over." said Nelson. "I thought it would be fun to serve with friends and help them figure out their path in life."
Nelson is currently a senior at Cloquet Senior High School and assigned to the Recruit Sustainment Program in Duluth. He attended basic training at Fort Benning in the summer of 2016 with follow-on training in the summer of 2017 to become an infantryman.
Posted: 2017-03-10 08:50 AM LITCHFIELD, Minn. -Bruce Cottington, a Navy veteran of WWII and Korea, donated a bronze bust of Gen. John W. Vessey, Jr. to the Litchfield National Guard unit during the armory's public open house event March 4. Cottington, a Litchfield resident, commands the Minnesota Chapter of the Veterans of Underage Military Service. VUMS members enlisted in the military prior to the minimum age requirement in order to serve their country during WWII. Cottington received the bust from Vessey, a fellow VUMS member. Both enlisted in the military at the age of 16.
The highlight of the 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion open house was the unveiling of the sculpture. The unit was very supportive when Cottington proposed donating the sculpture. The Litchfield community has always been very supportive of the National Guard over the years, so the open house was a chance to say 'thanks' to their neighbors. "This was a great opportunity to honor Bruce and to honor Gen. Vessey," said B Co., 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion Commander, Capt. Seth Goreham. Bravo Company also has a tight relationship with the local American Legion and VFW. Many Litchfield citizens are former members of Bravo Company, or the unit's predecessors A Co, 682nd Engineer Battalion, and the 849th Mobility Augmentation Company.
Posted: 2017-03-08 03:29 PM CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - The garrison command team of Camp Ripley, family, friends and colleagues from the Minnesota National Guard attended a Change of Responsibility ceremony between Command Sgt. Maj. Mike Worden and Command Sgt. Maj. Matt Erickson, March 5, 2017, at Camp Ripley.
The ceremony was an official "passing of the sword" from one senior noncommissioned officer to the next and assumption of the duties and responsibilities that go along with the position of Garrison Command Sergeant Major.
As with many military ceremonies those in attendance welcomed Erickson as a new member of the team and bid farewell, recognized and thanked Worden for his service.