Virtual training: Game changer for units participating in JRTC rotations
FORT POLK, La. (Fort Polk) - Instructors for Fort Polk’s Emergent Threat, Training and Readiness Capability — ET2RC — Home Station Training team began training combat engineers in preparation for Joint Readiness Training Center Rotation 21-06 March 3.
The virtual training was conducted via MS Teams with members of the 961st Engineer Company, part of the Ohio Army Reserve, during the unit’s annual training at Camp Atterbury, Indiana.
The 961st will provide brigade-level assistance to Fort Polk’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Airborne) during Rotation 21-06 in April. Dan Walsh, threat mitigation trainer for U.S. Army Reserve Command, said the training, entitled Obstacle Classification and Planning, teaches the engineers what constitutes an obstacle and the different types of obstacles.
“We’ll teach them how to develop obstacles, and do it better,” Walsh said.
John Patterson, site lead for the HST team at Fort Polk, said the “so what” of the virtual training was that the training was done before the rotation.
”Dan and Larry (Driscoll an HST team trainer) are conducting the training on behalf of JRTC Operations Group, Task Force 5, and they’re doing pre-rotational training using a distributive learning platform,” Patterson said. “The virtual training is a game changer because the unit does not have to be on the ground to start the training, whereas a year ago, units would come down here and try to crunch in all the training they could during Reception, Staging, Onward-movement and Integration. Now they are able to get it done using distant learning virtual training before their arrival. It helps them learn how they tie in to the rotation.”
Driscoll said the idea is to reach out through virtual training and distance training to engage units before the rotation.
“We take some of the stress off of the units during the RSO&I phase of rotation,” Driscoll said. “That was the mandate we received from Lt. Col. Larry Workman, lead OC/T for Task Force 5, that we try to get training done earlier to take stress off commanders. Additionally, it gets them thinking and moving in the right direction.”
Walsh said he has reached out to Reserve and National Guard units before rotations to get them interested in the training prior to the 30-day window before deployment.
”It’s been paying off dividends,” he said. “That way they can build their train-up plan prior to coming to JRTC and implement this material into it so when they get here, we’re not taking up so much of their time. They will not have to do repetitions of things they have already trained on. They have the concept; all they have to do is the tuning.”
Following the virtual class work, the 961st Engineers were able to put what they learned into practice during a field exercise at Camp Atterbury.
Two HST team instructors — Chuck Woods from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and Anthony Spicer from Fort Knox, Kentucky — each worked with a platoon reinforcing what was learned during the virtual class.
Driscoll said Army engineer units need a lot of work in defensive operations.
”We’re not where we need to be,” he said. “Engineers are not the primary ground fighters involved in the defense as combatants. What they do is go in and build the arena — in terms of counter-mobility and reinforcing and shaping terrain — to force a specific effect on an enemy unit. Whether that comes down to shaping effects or killing effects, the outreach permits us an opportunity to guide them in their selections.”
Tuesday and Wednesday, the Fort Polk ET2RC HST team will train engineers with Alpha Company, 317th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd BCT, 10th Mtn Div (Airborne). The event will include classroom and field training.
During the RSO&I for Rotation 21-06, the HST team will be able to answer questions the engineers may have. During the rotation, the HST team will also be available, along with Task Force 5 OC/Ts, to guide the engineers.
Editor’s note: This is part one of an ongoing series.
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