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86th IBCT (MTN) finishes warfighter exercise

By Spc. Avery Cunningham | 172nd Public Affairs Detachment | July 18, 2017

FORT DRUM, N.Y. — The 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain), Vermont National Guard, conducted a warfighter exercise held from June 3-14. The exercise is a tactical operations drill designed to train brigade staff using a simulation with the Army’s Command Post of the Future, a software system that enables commanders to see the battlefield and communicate across the force. The brigade was at Fort Drum to facilitate the exercise.

“Fort Drum brings a lot of resources to the table that helps us have a successful exercise. There’s the terrain that allows us to set up all of our command posts,” said U.S. Army Col. Andrew Harris, 86th IBCT (MTN) commander. “There’s the technological backdrop through the mission training center that has briefing rooms, [after action review] facilities, conference facilities, and the computer technology and bandwidth needed to support the simulation exercise.”

Fort Drum also allows the brigade to work more closely with the 10th Mountain Division, who they were organized with since entry into the Associated Units pilot program in October of 2016. It is a new concept designed to increase the readiness and responsiveness of the Army as a total force.

“We have a higher headquarters that is the same as our associated unit headquarters and that association, both with our higher headquarters and with our sister brigades in the 10th Mountain Division, allows us to more habitually practice the things we do every day,” said Harris. “That consistency and repetition in [standard operating procedures] nested together makes us better at what we do.”

The 86th IBCT (MTN) brought together Soldiers from many different states. While the mountain brigade is headquartered in Vermont, it has units from Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Bringing those states together builds on consistency and allows for a more accurate and realistic training scenario.

“A lot of states are coming together to work as a team and a warfighter allows us to do that,” said Capt. Laura Wallace, battle captain, Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 186th Brigade Support Battalion. “The senior mentor for the exercise could not tell that an element was from another state. We all wear the 10th Mountain patch and we’re all part of the 86th IBCT.”

This camaraderie is integral to building the brigade’s relationships between subordinate and supervising units. The exercise is just one in a series of steps for the unit to finish their cycle of training.

“It will prepare us for a more comprehensive field exercise next summer, which is called XCTC (eXportable Combat Training Capability) and that exercise next summer will prepare us for one that is two summers from now which is JRTC (Joint Readiness Training Center),” said Harris. “Each one of those is an even bigger exercise involving more troops, more resources, more equipment, and more land and space.”

XCTC and JRTC are phases that teach the brigade what it needs to know to improve and become battle ready. Each of the exercises adds another layer of complexity, first working as a battalion in XCTC, and then the whole brigade coming together for JRTC. The exercises build upon each person’s knowledge-base.

“This is a learning organization, so at our battalion we had some new personnel, and we’re moving forward with developing processes and workflow to accomplish the mission,” said Wallace.

The brigade’s focus for this exercise was to develop leaders within the organization.

“It gets the leaders trained. It gets the leaders focused on mission planning, on how to care for, feed, maneuver, and employ all of our Soldiers and their equipment,” said Harris. “Once the leaders are trained, we can expand it in the next year to the far more comprehensive XCTC.”

The brigade is preparing for its path to a successful and trained force. Soldiers are now done with the Warfighter exercise and ready for the journey home, so they can rest and prepare for their next training event.

“Soldiers should come home tired and fulfilled from the time they spent with us here at Fort Drum, and we’re grateful for everyone’s willingness to share their loved ones with us for this two week period,” said Harris.