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First Army

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NEWS | Aug. 22, 2022

Soldiers with First Army’s 181st Infantry Brigade provide OC/T support during CSTX

By Warren W. Marlow

FORT McCoy, Wis. - Soldiers from First Army Division West’s 181st Infantry Brigade provided observer coach/trainer support to Reserve Component units during a Combat Support Training Exercise conducted here the first three weeks of August.

The exercise put the units through the planning, preparation, supervising, and execution of pre-mobilization collective training, through scenarios that mimicked real-world conditions. The exercise further prepared and validated the units to deploy quickly and to meet and engage adversaries worldwide.

First Army's role included creating training lanes and designing scenarios which enabled the training units to demonstrate their capabilities. The lanes were custom-built around what a unit or section does to further prepare Soldiers for deployment. It’s all geared toward Soldier and unit improvement, according to Staff Sgt. Logan Fleischman, a 181st OC/T. 

“A successful exercise is whenever the units we’re working with leave with an increased proficiency level than what they come with,” he said.

For members of the 877th Quartermaster Company, their CSTX began with a 1,300-mile convoy from New Mexico.

“It took four days to go the 1,300 miles. We had 24 vehicles plus eight trailers,” said Staff Sgt. Bryan Morell, who served as the convoy commander. That hectic pace continued during the exercise.

“Since we are the maintenance section of the company, we have unscheduled services that we tend to do, if there is an issue…we push out our recovery team with our wrecker and we try to fix whatever we can there or we bring it here,” Morell explained, “Plus we are doing troop leading procedures, such as reacting to contact and checking the perimeters.”

It’s all about leaving as a better Soldier and unit. “The OC/Ts have been great,” Morrel said. “They’ve given us a lot of feedback. After our last attack, they have us some excellent input on what we had done right and on what ways that we could improve.”

Sgt. Nichole Vigil, an all-wheeled vehicle mechanic, echoed those sentiments. “They’ve come through and let us know what we’ve done well or some ways to do it better,” she said. “We went through a refresher on tactical formations and that will be something we take with us. We’ve also been able to gain a perspective in some new areas. We have a lot of experienced mechanics on ground here and they guide us really well. We’ve learned a lot about…how to respond when you’re having issues with air pressure or brake pressure or your tires are dragging.”

Constant attention to detail and teamwork are two of the keys to success during an event like this, Vigil added.

“We start off early in the morning and the night before we have prepped our day so we know if a vehicle is going to roll in and we can start working on that. If there’s not, we respond to calls for help. They either bring their vehicle in or if it needs recovered, we go to them,” she said.

“There’s some great learning out here,” added Pfc. Jason Johnson, a four-wheeled mechanic. “I have great mentors who teach me how to work on the vehicles. The let me know how to identify a problem and this is how you fix it.”

That has also been the experience for Spc. Jasmine Torbio, an all-wheeled vehicle mechanic.

“It’s been good training. For example, yesterday we took a look at one of the LMTVs and there was a crack on one of the engine blocks and those are types of learning experiences we are having,” she said.

That learning extends to basic Soldiering as well.

“There are a lot of leadership skills that you learn everyday out here, making sure your Soldiers are OK, that they’re eating, drinking water, applying sunscreen, just taking care of everyone,” Torbio said. “And the OC/Ts have been courteous and professional, they give us excellent feedback that helps us improve.”

Fleischman added that that goal has been met. “The units from where they began the CSTX to where they are now, they have drastically improved,” he said. “The most notable improvement I’ve seen is the level of how in depth their troop leading procedures were from day one to where they are right now. They’ve gotten much more in depth and detailed.”