SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii — Staff Sgt. James Kinkead and 2nd Lt. Bryton Vanderloop were unsure about their next task.
The two 25th Infantry Division Soldiers were going to use a training methodology called Squad Overmatch to prepare two squads for infantry missions.
“I was skeptical about it,” Kinkead said. “I never heard of it,” Vanderloop said.
To make their jobs even more difficult, the Soldiers and medics in the exercise had never trained together. And Kinkead and Vanderloop, along with other instructors, had less than a week to mold the Soldiers into effective teams.
By the end of the week, both were impressed with the squads.
“They came together and performed as an expert team,” said Vanderloop. “It was great to see.”
“When we started, we could see how much they were lacking as a team,” Kinkead said. “Then to see how well they performed in live training — that shows that Squad Overmatch works.”
Squad Overmatch integrates classroom teaching, virtual training and live exercises to improve medical skills, team development, stress management, after action reviews and advanced situational awareness.
The Hawaiian exercise, which took place Aug. 13-17, involved 40 Soldiers as instructors, role players and infantry squad members. Most were from the 65th Brigade Engineer Battalion (65th BEB) of the 25th Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
Col. Johnny Davis, the 25th Infantry Division’s deputy commander for operations, watched some of the live training.
“Today I witnessed the advancement and growth of squad members as they negotiated multiple live training scenarios across a multitude of warrior skills,” he said. “These are exactly the skillsets we need to improve readiness and unit cohesion within today’s complex environment.”
To prepare for the exercise, instructors and role players reviewed a Squad Overmatch app that features videos, exercise descriptions, interactive PowerPoint slides and other resources. A week before the exercise, the Squad Overmatch team arrived to provide assistance.
During training, instructors taught in the classroom, helped rehearse missions in a gaming environment, observed each squad execute three live missions and led team-based after action reviews.
The missions called for the squads to gather information from role-playing villagers and then act on the intelligence. As the training missions progressed, the scenarios ramped up Soldiers’ stress as they dealt with IEDs, snipers, suicide bombers, and civilian and military casualties.
The exercises impressed Lt. Col. James Krueger, commander of the 65th BEB. “It helps us to improve our readiness to fight tonight,” he said. Krueger said he anticipates conducting similar training with other members of his unit.
Squad Overmatch is a collaborative effort among the Program Executive Office Simulation Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI), Maneuver Center of Excellence, Combined Arms Center – Training and other Army organizations. The program started in 2013 and receives funding from the CSA Army Study Program Management Office and the Defense Health Agency.
Its director, Rob Wolf of PEO STRI, said a 2016 study showed that Squad Overmatch improved individual and team performance by 26 percent to 43 percent.
Now the Squad Overmatch team is finalizing its app that provides a one-stop resource to help NCOs and platoon leaders plan and execute similar training events, which achieve numerous individual and collective skills. Wolf expects the app to be ready by the end of the year.