Fort Pickett, 229th Engineers adjust fire to complete required training remotely

Master Sgt. Joe Vitola presents a field sanitation class to Soldiers of the 229th Brigade Enginer Battalion through a remote web application April 5, 2020, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The Fredericksburg-based 229th BEB was able to conduct vital unit training remotely during their April drill weekend thanks to the innovative thinking of the Fort Pickett Asymmetric Threat Training Support Program team. (Photo courtesy of the Fort Pickett Asymmetric Threat Training Support Program)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — The Virginia National Guard’s Fredericksburg-based 229th Brigade Engineer Battalion was able to conduct vital unit training remotely April 4-5, 2020, thanks to the innovative thinking of the Fort Pickett Asymmetric Threat Training Support Program team.

In order to prevent spread of COVID-19, and to ensure Soldiers who might have the virus, even if undetected, do not come into contact with other healthy Soldiers, the Virginia Army Guard is not conducting any face-to-face training during the month of April. As a result, the Fort Pickett ATTSP team utilized a web-based conferencing application to train and facilitate training during the 229th BEB’s drill weekend.

“The plan of action was created by the team a few weeks prior to the IDT,” said Jerry Morgan, site lead for the Fort Pickett ATTSP team. “The unit was extremely receptive to this method of instruction and have already requested follow-on training during their May IDT.”

Utilizing internal and external networks, the team was first able to bring together members of the 229th’s parent unit, the Staunton-based 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. During that presentation, all functionalities of the application were tested and reviewed.

“The polling function of the application allowed the instructors to create accountability rosters for the team as well as the unit,” Morgan explained. “It also allowed the team to tailor the training and ‘Checks On Learning’ to the unit’s specific focus.”

The first training exercise consisted of an updated threat brief, the most recent COVID-19 information, and a counter unmanned aerial system threat awareness class.

While David Downey, a consultant with the ATTSP team, presented the information, Morgan assisted by fielding questions in the application’s chat feature.

“The Soldiers were engaged throughout the briefing with ‘Check On Learning’ polling questions created by the team for the training,” Morgan said. “As part of their preparations for an upcoming JRTC [Joint Readiness Training Center] rotation, the ATTSP leveraged their subject matter experts to guide and focus their CUAS block of instruction. Positive feedback was heard from the leadership and Soldiers regarding the training and the lessons learned will help shape future exercises.”

The second training exercise was internal to the unit’s taskings, but facilitated and supported by the ATTSP. Looking to capitalize on the new training platform, the command section of the Headquarters Company requested use of the application for their annual mission essential task list training completion.

Master Sgt. Joe Vitola led the class, which was on field sanitation. This time Downey moderated the chat room and answered questions. According to Morgan, equally positive feedback was heard from the unit regarding the training and future training events are already in the works.

The weekend’s events demonstrated the effectiveness of online training and how it can become a valuable tool moving forward as in-person training is limited. The virtual sessions can be joined by Guard personnel across the state and meet classroom training requirements.

“The ATTSP team is a great asset for MTC,” said Col. Paul Gravely, commander of the Fort Pickett Maneuver Training Center. “Their whole purpose is to help cover gaps in unit training and they’ve taken the initiative to reach out to units to see what they can do to help them meet their training requirements.”

Units interested in learning more about the training should contact the Fort Pickett ATTPS team at (804) 399-7792.