HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Insurgent techniques and battlefield scenarios in Afghanistan shift as quickly as the desert sands.
For First Army trainer/mentors, who each year provide post-mobilization training for tens of thousands of Army National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers for deployments to Afghanistan and other contingency missions, that means regularly going through training themselves. At Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, Miss., trainers from First Army’s two divisions — East and West — receive the latest
The instructors at First Army’s Trainer/Mentor Academy have a responsibility to make sure all trainers are trained to one standard across First Army.
“It’s very important that the instructors are on the same page, because there is no reason to have one unit trained differently than another,” said Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Frazier, an augmented instructor for the Trainer Mentor Academy from 2nd Battalion, 306th Field Artillery Regiment, 188th Infantry Brigade, Division East.
“(Trainer) instruction should be to the same standard across the board. In terms of instructing the course, you get to see different viewpoints from different personnel across First Army,” Frazier said. “I get to learn how they instruct the (trainers) from different parts of the country like Fort McCoy, Wis., and Fort Dix, N.J. In the long run, I am learning new techniques to add to my instructor’s tool kit.”
More than 100 trainers comprised a recent class at the academy.
During field exercises, six students played the role of trainers while their classmates played the role of soldiers being trained for a deployment. During an Entry Control Point exercise, the trainers evaluated how the “deploying” soldiers handled inspections of vehicles, persons entering the facility and identity verification procedures. Once the scenario ended, the entire group participated in an after action review to discuss what went well and what could have gone better.
“This is some very good training for the folks that have never been a (trainer) or experienced some of the scenarios we’ve been in,” said 2nd Lt. James Spurgeon, 1st Battalion, 363rd Regiment, 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. “It’s different when you are going through the scenario and you’re trying to think on your feet as opposed to observing the scenario and looking at the soldiers and how they react.”
Academy instructors at Camp Shelby are making a difference throughout all of First Army, Frazier said.
“One great positive is that the academy has received great feedback from the students and the platoon sergeants,” Frazier said.
“The input has pointed out items that needed to be changed or updated in our curriculum.”
Soon, refined classroom and field training that reflects the constantly changing and unconventional tactics and technology being used in current warfare will be in place at the academy.
“In my opinion, new (programs of instruction) will have a bigger impact,” Frazier said. “If we bring in more team-structured learning objectives, that will help the (mobilization) process become even more effective.”
Soldiers who have recently returned from deployments agree with Frazier.
“Newer tactics are being used by the enemy,” said Staff Sgt. Patrick Flanigan, a liaison officer with 1st Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West. “As a (trainer), I would like to see some of the new stuff taught so I can better prepare units for what they might see out there.”