By Capt. Marvin J. Baker
120th Infantry Brigade public affairs
To truly understand the tremendous effort and resources the Army puts into the training and preparation of a unit deploying to combat, you have to take a look at the unit just days before it boards the plane for the Middle East.
Most Army Reserve and National Guard units begin planning and preparing for combat nearly a year out from their deployment. The unit has several months of individual training at its home station and several weeks of collective training at mobilization training centers like the one at North Fort Hood.
Recently the 118th Multifunctional Medical Battalion completed all its collective training under the training regimen of the 120th Infantry Brigade and the 75th Division. These two units oversee the training of Army Reserve and National Guard units deploying for combat. While the 120th Infantry Brigade focuses on collective training such as close-quarters-combat, the 75th Division looks at the unit's staff processes helping it see where it can improve its procedures and responses to crisis.
"Our mission is to train staff for their wartime mission, pull staff together, enhance decision making and planning, and get the unit to assess their procedures and drills before their deployment," said Lt. Col. Ben Black, a senior observer controller trainer with the 75th Division.
Black said the training of 118th Multifunctional Medical Battalion makes the 10th training mission for him this year. While the 75th trains a variety of units, one thing remains constant, he said.
"Safety and risk management is very important and a constant emphasis in our training," said Black.
The staff relationships in most units are the same and most have to overcome similar obstacles and achieve similar positive results. Each unit has a different culture based on its leadership and this medical unit seems to have a culture that works for them, Black added.
The relationships become more apparent during the unit's mission readiness exercises. The MRE occurs at the tail-end of collective training and test the unit's responses to real-world scenarios. The 120th and the 75th work hard to make training realistic to gain realistic responses that test the unit at the top down to the unit's most junior soldier.
One junior soldier, Spc. Karen Fajardo, a human resources specialist in the unit, said, "The MRE training helped us see our mistakes and in turn I was able to help our subordinate units see their mistakes."
Fajardo was commended in front of her unit during the final after-action review with the 75th Division. Her job was to help soldiers. She took care of their complaints, issues, and kept account for each of them during the MRE. She had never been deployed and said she has a very detailed nature which complements her job with the Connecticut National Guard unit and her civilian job as bookkeeper in Norwalk, Conn.
The 118th Multifunctional Medical Battalion is a new unit that formed about three years ago. It is a mix of soldiers from a medical logistics unit and an area support unit. Maj. Michael Desena, the unit's Force Health Protection chief, said, "In some of our sections, we took a group of young soldiers and came together as a team to produce a good product. The MFMB is a new concept and we made it work."
That work, at times was fast-paced and chaotic, all intended to stress the unit. The 75th used things like real-world mass-casualty events and civilian-military joint medical operations to increase the realism.
"We were a little unorganized in the beginning and had very little collaboration between the staff, but by the end of the exercise that all changed," Desena said.
As the 118th Multifunctional Medical Battalion says goodbye to Fort Hood, the soldiers in the unit with take with them a better understanding of the importance of a few things - situational awareness, interpersonal communication and job proficiency.