Defeating a hybrid threat is considered the greatest challenge for the Army of the future. Throughout the month of August, Soldiers from the 84th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command executed a field training exercise modeled after such a real-world scenario. Concurrently, platoons executed convoy and perimeter defense live-fires to validate collective mission essential tasks in preparation for a 2018 Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) rotation and the new Objective T criteria.
The battalion field training exercise (FTX) started with a night tactical road march to the East Range Training Area at Wheeler Gulch, Hawaii.
Over the following week, units executed a series of training events ranging from mounted route clearance, engineer bridge reconnaissance, clearing obstacles, constructing survivability positions and base defense. External evaluators were attached to every platoon to evaluate the execution of the collective tasks for each event.
“The 84th Engineer Battalion FTX was a deliberately planned exercise with the goal to enhance readiness through realistic and demanding training. Realism was achieved through the employment of realistic mission command orders based off of a decisive action scenario utilized for training at JRTC. The mission orders were then tailored for realistic execution on the island of Oahu which featured a dynamic enemy threat including an insurgent force, special purpose forces and a conventional force,” said Capt. Blake Cannedy, the lead planner for the training event. “As a battalion, we fight two levels down, so we employed platoon missions in the orders process which enabled us to conduct platoon situational training exercise lanes matching the platoon missions generated during our decision-making process. These realistic sce narios, paired with missions, provided the opportunity to really measure where our platoons stand so we can refine our training plans moving forward.”
Units operated during the day and night while being challenged by a hybrid opposing force (OPFOR) threat. Simulated Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN), indirect fire and complex ambushes tested the Soldiers ability to react and adapt to a hostile threat while completing the mission.
“The FTX allowed me to exercise my military occupational specialty (MOS) training by setting up a local network that allowed for communications throughout the training site. We also trained basic Soldier tasks during our base defense by reacting to enemy attack and executing a medical evacuation,” said Pfc. Jamille Parker, information technology specialist, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 84th Engineer Battalion.
Capt. Jeremy Reynolds, an evaluator during the training exercise, remarked, “due to the integration of a hybrid threat, the route clearance and distribution platoons had a great opportunity to analyze OPFOR on the ground and actually apply the rules of engagement in a meaningful way. During the validation for 1st Platoon, 95th Engineer Company, the unit excelled with hybrid threats in a challenging night training scenario. Despite the challenge, the unit performed well and proved that they are trained and capable of responding in real world missions.”
Upon completion of the training scenario, platoons transitioned to live fire ranges to complete their collective training objectives. For many Soldiers, this was the first time they had participated in a gunnery range at the platoon level. Thanks to a deliberate train up and skills test lead by Staff Sgt. Donald Parker, the battalion’s master gunner, crews successfully completed their qualification tasks in a safe manner.
“Our first culminating exercise since the force design update was an outstanding success due to the dedication of our Soldiers during the individual, squad and platoon level training leading up to the exercise,” said Command Sgt. Major Sergio Ortega, senior enlisted advisor for the 84th Engineer Battalion. “I am immensely proud of all the 84th Engineer Battalion has accomplished during my tenure as the Command Sergeant Major.”