First Army commander praises Fort Stewart
The First Army Commander visited Fort Stewart for a terrain walk and briefing on how his units will work with Fort Stewart and the surrounding communities to prepare for the arrival of over 3000 soldiers this winter.
Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré took the day to walk through the proposed Forward Operations Base, the Fort Stewart ranges, and the current National Guard training area with the commander, Col. George Geczy III, and staff of the First Army’s 188th Infantry Brigade, the Fort Stewart Garrison Commander, Col. Todd Buchs and some of his staff, and soldiers of the First Army Division East.
The group was taking the tour for a hands-on vision of how the 76th Brigade Combat Team, Indiana National Guard, will prepare for their mobilization and deployment to Iraq early next year.
First Army’s 188th Brigade is not new to training soldiers for deployment. The unit is composed of senior non-commissioned officers and officers, most of whom have deployed to one or more combat zones throughout their careers.
Many of the observer controller/trainers (OC-Ts) who will be working directly with the 76th soldiers have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan within the past three years.
First Army recruits Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers just as they finish a deployment as part of the Operation Warrior Trainer program, seeking the current experience of mobilization, deployment, and wartime operations these soldiers bring back from the combat theater.
The OC-Ts then attend an intense training session, honing their skills by living as they will train. First Army’s training is tough, realistic, and stressful. It’s called Theater Immersion training, the imperative to “train and equip deploying soldiers to the best of our ability, so they can fight and win on the battlefields, then come back home,” Honoré said.
Fort Stewart ready
Fort Stewart is ready to support them as well. Buchs and some of his staff briefed Honoré on food, medical, facilities, and training support, just to name a few of the topics covered.
Fort Stewart is the backbone of the mobilization training for the 76th. As frequently as 3rd Infantry Division deploys, Fort Stewart’s expertise provides First Army with a strong training background and a stronger support base. The departments that briefed were enthusiastic and energetic, actively seeking more effective ways of supporting the incoming soldiers.
Working in conjunction with First Army, Fort Stewart is providing an enormous training area involving the National Guard training facilities near Donovan Field and the majority of the training ranges and range roads. Range control, safety, training, food service, soldier care services, emergency medical, and public affairs are all highly involved in the mobilization and deployment.
In turn, Honoré was emphatic the First Army would pay its own way, even to the extent of providing improvements that would remain for the 3rd Infantry Division’s use upon their return. His emphasis was on the quality of training and the flexibility of the schedule to ensure that the training focused on what the soldiers would encounter in theater.
“These soldiers are not clients or customers. They are our soldiers and we will treat them like they are our own sons and daughters,” he said.
Another area heavily stressed was safety.
“Yellow lights on every vehicle. When the folks around here see a convoy with flashing yellow lights, they’ll know those troops are training for Iraq,” Honoré told Buchs.
Ambulances at each FOB, warning signs and clean up after convoys, weather considerations, and intense physical training throughout the entire preparation period were some of the other measures mentioned.
Geczy, standing in the midst of a floor model map made of blocks, miniature trees, toy soldiers, string, and tape, points to a set of plastic vehicles. He explains why he is planning a three day “crawl, walk, run, and repeat again and again” training range in the northern ranges.
“When I deployed my battalion to Iraq, in the same type of arena that the 76th is going to face, this training saved more than one crew. My own combat experiences decided we needed more intense training here.”
Honoré took a moment to recognize the hard work of 188th Plans and Operations personnel in their preparations for the 76th’s arrival by presenting Sgt. 1st Class Lester Sassard a First Army coin for the section’s hard work setting up the terrain board.
“It reminds me of when I was here as a brigade commander,” Honoré said about Fort Stewart. “I appreciate the positive attitude. We’ll continue to work together. Train like you’re gonna fight.”
Meadows is with the 188th Infantry Brigade