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Controllers monitor action in ‘the box’

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Posted: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 4:30 am | Updated: 2:06 pm, Wed Feb 6, 2013.

FORT IRWIN, Calif. — Every move made by 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, is being watched — and not just by the enemy.

Part of the unit’s 30-day rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., includes feedback and after-action reviews from the team of observer-controllers stationed at the isolated desert post.

Movements within the training grounds, known as “the box,” are monitored by the controllers, as well as with video equipment.

Recordings are shared with the unit to allow its soldiers to see and learn exactly how they managed a scenario.

“It’s a very positive environment and that’s important,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas James, deputy commander of maneuver for the division. “They coach, teach and help us.”

The observers establish the problem set and conditions, adjusting the next scenarios based on how the brigade handles it, said Lt. Col. Chris Doneski, senior brigade trainer for the center.

“If they react well, we turn up the heat. If they react poorly, we conduct an after-action review and talk about how to fix it,” he said.

In the past, Doneski said, units came to the training center for a report card; now it’s all about improvement.

Col. David Lesperance, Greywolf Brigade commander, said this training environment allows for his soldiers to become confident in their leaders and equipment.

“My soldiers will be confident and competent in their ability to operate in the future in whatever mission is at hand,” he said from the brigade’s mobile command post Monday.

After Sunday’s defense combat operations against the enemy force, the day was spent planning and preparing for the next step, as well as relocating the brigade’s tactical operations center.

“I appreciate the level of complexity, friction and stress,” Lesperance said. “They’ve created a scenario that really allows me, as a brigade commander, to really feel confident for anything assigned by my division commander.”

The scenarios provided Greywolf are part of the Army’s new decisive action training.

It combines the lessons of counterinsurgency learned in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with force-on-force combat operations.

Something Doneski stresses is for units training at the center to truly strategize.

“You have to anticipate what the situations you’re going to be in, so the first time you’re experiencing them is not the first time you’ve ever thought about it,” he said.

About 5,000 troopers traveled from Fort Hood to participate in the training.

Greywolf is currently in its last week of the two spent in the box and should return home in February.

“The proficiency of our mechanized forces is because of this laboratory we to go to train in really refines these skills,” Doneski said. “Units that are coming through here, I’m encouraged how quickly they are picking things up.”

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