116th IBCT Soldiers prepare for external evaluations

Infantrymen of Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team drill assaulting an objective with a squad of engineers from Fredricksburg-based Company A, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. The infantry and engineer Soldiers developed their proficiency in combined arms platoon operations in preparation for the brigade-wide Exportable Combat Training Center rotation in June at Fort Pickett. The XCTC rotation will focus on section, squad and platoon validation and external evaluation. (Photo by Sgt. JoAnna Greene, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office)

Infantrymen of Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team drill assaulting an objective with a squad of engineers from Fredricksburg-based Company A, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. The infantry and engineer Soldiers developed their proficiency in combined arms platoon operations in preparation for the brigade-wide Exportable Combat Training Center rotation in June at Fort Pickett. The XCTC rotation will focus on section, squad and platoon validation and external evaluation. (Photo by Sgt. JoAnna Greene, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Units across the Staunton-based 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team assembled on Fort Pickett April 3-6, 2014, for continuous and rigorous training in preparation for the brigade’s Exportable Combat Training Center rotation in June.

XCTC is an instrumented combat-readiness program that assesses the Soldier’s necessary skills prior to deployment. It will serve as a culminating training event during annual training June 14 – 29 as platoons are externally evaluated on many tasks necessary to build on for next year’s company validations.

The rotation will run for 10 days with up to 10 live-fire lanes and approximately 40 situational training exercise lanes, said Maj. Kurt Kobernik, operations officer for the 116th IBCT. All of the lanes will build on the platoon’s ability to conduct troop leading procedures and fundamental tasks appropriately.

Soldiers of First Army, U.S. Army Forces Command will evaluate the units during the exercises. First Army advises, assists, and trains reserve component units to achieve readiness requirements during both pre- and post-mobilization.

“We’re not here to be some looming figure, trying to intimidate Soldiers,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jon Swanson, an observer with First Army present at the weekend’s training. “I ask them how they think they could’ve done things differently, try to change the way they think while performing tasks.”

This weekend served as most units’ last opportunity to get in thorough extended training before XCTC during annual training. Units conducted training to prepare Soldiers for the numerous aspects of the evaluations including platoon validations, combined arms operations, job specific skill sets and real-world conditions.

Infantrymen of the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment prepared for platoon validations over the weekend by developing their proficiency in mounted and dismounted platoon offensive operations.

“To be successful in this year’s platoon validations you need strong, knowledgable platoon leaders, platoon sergeants, and squad leaders– which we have,” said Capt. Sid Leslie, commander of Company A, 1-116th.

Soldiers of the Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment worked on platoon-level urban assault operations and defensive field exercises. The infantrymen of Woodstock-based Company B spent much of their training weekend rehearsing fundamental offensive and defensive maneuvers on the urban assault course.

Basic Soldier skills are the foundation for solid platoon operations, said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Hardgrove, platoon sergeant for 3rd Platoon, Company B. Without the basics, it all falls apart.

XCTC’s exercises are designed to focus on multi-component integrated collective training and the 116th IBCT has a wide array of capabilities they can bring to the battle field and all will be tested.

Soldiers of the Fredericksburg-based 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion have been preparing for this dynamic through combined arms exercises with their diverse specialties. Over the drill weekend, engineers of Company A cross trained with military police Soldiers of Headquarters Company on engineer reconnaissance missions and safely conducted demolition proficiency exercises. Some engineers practiced offensive battle drills day and night with infantrymen of Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment developing their proficiency in combined arms operations.

“This is the first time in a while we’ve reintegrated with maneuver battalions, and shown how useful we are as a combat multiplier,” said Capt. Neal Sutliff, commander of Company A, 116th BSTB.

XCTC will not only assess basic Soldier skills, but job specific skill sets as well. The brigade’s numerous specialty units spent the weekend sharpening their expertise.

Medical Soldiers of Company C, 429th Brigade Support Battalion pushed their resources to the limits during a mass casualty evacuation exercise, that tested their specific skill sets in an exhausting, real-world scenario. Soldiers of other 429th units prepared for testing in June by conducting night drivers training in convoy exercises and qualifying on the M240B machine gun and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.

Soldiers of Hampton-based 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment honed their artillery craft over the weekend with countless occupation drills and live-fire exercises. The artillerymen increased the speed with which they were able to drive into position, set their equipment, and be ready to safely and accurately fire their M119A2 howitzers.

XCTC evaluations are meant to mimic actual combat conditions, many of the exercises will be scenario-based, occur at night, and be continuous.

“The best thing to prepare for the evaluations is to conduct realistic training, at night in rough terrain over long distances,” said Leslie.

Soldiers of Troop C, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment centered their weekend’s training around a high-value target scenario, incorporating air and water assets. Real-world scenarios like this are common in XCTC evaluations.

“This weekend’s exercise was eventful and educational,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Whitworth, scout team leader of Troop C. “The high tempo, continuous operations training has helped us progress far from where we were last year.”

“We’re two months away from XCTC and I feel very confident,” said Col. John Epperly, commander of the 116th IBCT. “The brigade is at it’s highest level of readiness I have ever seen it,” he said.

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1-116th Soldiers conduct continuous battle drills
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Cavalry Soldiers conduct air movement training
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3-116th Soldiers train at Fort Pickett Urban Assault Course
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Artillery Soldiers increase speed and accuracy safely
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116th BSTB Engineers increase demolitions proficiency
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Medical company Soldiers practice for mass casualty evaluation
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