Va. National Guard exercise model for Army Total Force Policy


FORT PICKETT, Va. – This year marked the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, and the last time units from the 82nd Airborne Division, the 101st Airborne Division and the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team as part of the 29th Infantry Division operated on the same plot of land was during the 1944 invasion. Although not under actual combat conditions, these units came back together for the National Guard’s eXportable Combat Training Capability exercise at Fort Pickett, Va. June 14-28, 2014.

“In this exercise we have all the components represented,” said Col. John M. Epperly, commander of the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “What we are seeing here is that the total Army is coming together to provide one of its National Guard brigade combat teams an opportunity to train and only train during its annual training, so it’s a total team effort.”

The eXportable Combat Training Capability exercise is a 10-day rotation designed to train and validate platoons on tasks that support offensive and defensive operations under daylight and hours of limited visibility. Units will concentrate on training selected mission essential tasks in a realistic field environment to refocus junior leaders on tactical field craft. The Army National Guard’s XCTC program provides an experience similar to a Combat Training Center.

The Virginia National Guard’s 116th was the focus of training for the exercise. However, paratroopers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division provided opposition forces for the 116th and also actively participated in their own lanes training.

Fort Stewart’s 188th Infantry Brigade served as the observer, coach and trainers for the exercise. They are made up of a combination of active duty and Army Reserve Soldiers. Their mission was to evaluate each platoon’s performance after each lane was completed. Their experience, combined with knowledge of doctrine provided invaluable feedback to both 116th and 82nd Soldiers.

“We get to use literally some of the best soldiers on the planet with the 82nd,” said Epperly. “So we truly get to fight a very professional force with that OPFOR team. Then we get the professional observations and coaching with the 188th Infantry Brigade.”

As part of the scenarios, aeromedical evacuation and general lift support was provided Company C, 6th Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division and Army Reserve Company B, 5th Battalion, 159th Aviation Battalion from Joint Base Langley-Eustis.

During one of the live fire exercises a small number of Air National Guardsman from North Carolina’s 118th Air Support Operations Squadron supported the 116th. The 118th sent Joint Terminal Attack Controllers to participate in XCTC. They are aligned to support a number of Army National Brigades if mobilized like the partnerships between active and National Guard brigades.

“At the end of the day the patch is interchangeable. We all wear the U.S. ARMY name tape,” said Maj. Joshua Gaspard, operations officer for 2nd Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. “It is our family, it is our team, it is the total force concept. It doesn’t matter what patch you are wearing on your shoulder, we all have the same foundation. It’s the U.S. Army.”

The Total Force Policy is also important to the Army because it establishes policy for the integration of the Army’s active component and reserve components as a Total Force. The Army’s active and reserve components are vital to fulfilling national military needs. The Total Force Policy will help ensure the nation benefits from the experiences gained in the last decade of war.