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NEWS | Aug. 9, 2022

First Army, Virginia National Guard complete support of XCTC at Fort Drum

By Mike Vrabel | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Blackstone-based 3647th Maintenance Company, 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group, and the Cedar Bluff-based 1033rd Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 329th RSG, successfully completed their support of a New Jersey National Guard brigade’s eXportable Combat Training Capability rotation July 30, 2022, at Fort Drum, New York. 

The two companies were supporting the New Jersey National Guard’s 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, based in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, as they conducted their XCTC rotation. 

In addition to the 3647th and 1033rd, the Emporia-based 1710th Transportation Company, 1030th Transportation Battalion, 329th RSG, helped load and transport equipment to Fort Drum and back as part of their annual training, showcasing the myriad strengths of the group, according to Col. Michael Waterman, rear commander of the 329th RSG. 

“This annual training was a great example of ‘one team, one fight’,” said Waterman. “Not only in supporting a NG unit from another state, but the 329th RSG supported this mission with one company from each of our three battalions. The 1033rd and 3647th got in some great training in support of the 44th IBCT, and the 1710th reacted quickly when they got the call to support the movement of equipment when the commercial transportation option presented some obstacles. Overall, it was a great opportunity for Soldiers to get in real-world, mission-focused training.”

For the 1033rd, supporting the 44th was an opportunity to do what they know best: moving earth and winning battles. 

“The highlight of our XCTC was after successfully conducting survivability and counter-mobility operations, we transitioned into mobility and breached the same anti-tank ditch we had created, as if it was an enemy obstacle,” said Capt. Jack McDonald IV, commander of the 1033rd. “This training opportunity not only facilitated great operator growth but also 1033rd’s growth as a cohesive unit, ready for any challenge.”

The 3647th’s Soldiers supported the 44th in a variety of ways, including wheeled vehicle recovery and maintenance, ground support equipment maintenance and electronics and armament maintenance, all while helping improve their own proficiency as maintainers. 

“XCTC was a success for the unit,” said Capt. Alec Hulbert, commander of the 3647th. “Our Soldiers stepped up to the challenge by keeping the operational readiness of the 44th IBCT and 117th CCSB over 95% for the duration of the exercise. They engaged in equipment repairs that they often don't have time to do on a normal drill weekend, which is great training and a reminder of what it takes to be an Army maintainer.”

The 3647th was also able to provide their maintenance support while participating in the tactical environment. 

“We were the only high-level sustainment unit that conducted unit defense lanes in the tactical training areas during the exercise,” explained Hulbert. “Our Soldiers successfully established our unit area, defended it during 24/7 operations against the opposing forces and contributed to the overall success of the 250th Brigade Support Battalion Unit Defense validation from First Army.”

Both units were able to provide high-level support in grueling field conditions over the course f the XCTC rotation, all while maintaining a positive outlook. 

“I couldn’t be prouder of my Soldiers and their development during the past few weeks,” said McDonald. “Spending multiple weeks in a field environment, sleeping on the ground, getting rained on and eaten by mosquitos has the potential to drain morale, however the Soldiers of the 1033rd embraced the environment. Young leaders stepped into their roles and all the earth-moving operators gained valuable experience and additional expertise on their equipment.”

The unfamiliar terrain of Fort Drum also provided a unique challenge and opportunity for the VNG units. 

“The most challenging aspect of the exercise was the unfamiliarity with the environment and processes with a different Army installation and higher headquarters units, but it was also one of the most rewarding,” said Hulbert. “As a division-level asset, we need to be flexible and dynamic on when and where we operate and who we report to. Getting outside of our comfort zone helps us all grow, and we grew as a team during this mission.”

Hulbert added his Soldiers are better equipped for future missions after the fast-paced, unpredictable nature of the XCTC rotation. 

“I hope the Soldiers take a new level of resilience from this exercise. We had many instances where plans fell apart and we needed to take an adaptive approach to problem solving. As Army Soldiers, it is absolutely essential that we find a way to accomplish the mission, especially when the plans fall apart.”

According to the XCTC web site, the Army National Guard program is an instrumented brigade field training exercise designed to certify platoon proficiency in coordination with First Army. An XCTC rotation provides an experience similar to a Combat Training Center rotation the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, or Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, to a training facility closer to home. XCTC brings full training resource packages to location, reducing the need to spend time and money traveling to a distant training location.

Training lanes are customized to meet objectives and engage maneuver units as well as the sustainment units that support them. Situational training lanes may include ambushes, hasty attacks, movement to contact, recon missions, vehicle recovery and more.

Training aids include battlefield effects, civilians on the battlefield, foreign national role players, and Soldiers and vehicles outfitted with global positioning system-based instrumentation system tracking technology. The GPS system tracks vehicles and participants to the Soldier level, allowing unit leaders to replay the day’s training scenarios and discuss lessons learned in instrumented after action reviews with 2D, 3D, tactical audio and handheld video within minutes of mission completion.