116th IBCT staff completes Fort Leavenworth Warfighter exercise

Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard's 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, assemble a command post system, Thursday, May 8, 2014, at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. The command post system will be utilized by the Soldiers of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 116th IBCT, as they conduct warfighter training at the Mission Training Complex, Fort Leavenworth, Kan. The tent-like system can be cooled or heated inside, depending on what conditions the Soldiers need during training. The largest model the tent is available in can be assembled in less than three hours by 10 to 12 Soldiers. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Tyler Mitchell)

Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard’s 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, assemble a command post system, Thursday, May 8, 2014, at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. The command post system will be utilized by the Soldiers of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 116th IBCT, as they conduct warfighter training at the Mission Training Complex, Fort Leavenworth, Kan. The tent-like system can be cooled or heated inside, depending on what conditions the Soldiers need during training. The largest model the tent is available in can be assembled in less than three hours by 10 to 12 Soldiers. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Tyler Mitchell)

STAUNTON, Va. – Brigade staff from the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team returned to Virginia after supporting the New York National Guard’s 42nd Infantry Division’s warfighter exercise May 14-28, 2014, at the Mission Training Complex on Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

“Both the 42nd ID and the Fort Leavenworth warfighting teams were highly complementary of the 116th’s proficiency and readiness to conduct brigade and division-level operations,” said Col. John M. Epperly, commander of the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “This is especially true of the brigade’s capabilities in terms of air assault and assault river crossing operations.”

The 42nd ID is based in Troy, N.Y., and is commanded by Maj. Gen. Harry E. Miller. It was the commanding unit for the exercise that involved nine brigades from National Guard units across the country, including the 116th.

Some of goals for the exercise were to improve the staff’s proficiency in the Military Decision Making Process and to function as a cohesive team. The exercise helped build capabilities to conduct future MDMPs, validated both staff battle drills and tactical standard operating procedures. It also tested and refined standard operating procedures.

The exercise evaluated the staff’s ability to execute an operations order that was planned and written during drill weekends leading up to this exercise. Fort Leavenworth’s observers, coaches and trainers served as mentors and evaluators for staff members. Each staff section was assigned an OC/T that provided comments and suggestions on how to improve their processes and procedures.

“We were a learning organization throughout the training,” said Maj. Robert W. Leseman. “We vastly improved our operability through seven-minute drills and reorganization of the operations center.”

One suggestion that was helpful was conducting seven-minute drills. They force the staff to pause all work to think about what is happening. They build additional situational awareness for the staff during the heat of the mission. As a result it adds clarity to recommendations made to the commander for informed decision making.

The brigade staff will trickle the knowledge learned from the exercise to subordinate battalions for future missions and planning processes. The 116th plans to hold internal MDMPs to train subordinate their battalions.

Aside from the simulated combat scenario, the logistics support and communications capabilities were needed. The Air National Guard was used to fly round trip from Virginia to Kansas. The brigade communications section was responsible for transportation, set up and maintenance of the Mission Command System.

“Many brigades struggle with their Mission Command Systems, but I am especially pleased with the brigade’s communications team,” said Epperly. “Their proficiency in establishing and sustaining all the brigade’s Mission Command Systems is extremely impressive and it enables the entire battle staff to perform their job better.”

Planning for the mission started over a year prior to the warfighter. During that time the 116th coordinated closely with the 42nd in preparation for the Fort Leavenworth warfighter exercise.

“We were able to forge a cohesive and effective team with the 42nd. I look forward to an opportunity to work with Maj. Gen. Miller and his team in the future,” said Epperly.