The first Stryker brigade ever activated in the Army wrapped up its first decisive action rotation with a unit from the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force, here, Jan. 31.
The 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, arrived to the NTC in early January from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. The 3-2 SBCT (activated in 2003) was immersed in a decisive action training environment (DATE) with challenges that included facing guerilla forces, insurgents, criminal elements and a near-peer conventional force. It was the first DATE rotation for any Stryker brigade said Capt. Christopher Swartz, public affairs officer with 3-2 SBCT.
It was also the first rotation at the NTC for a unit from Japan. Soldiers of the JGSDF partnered with 3-2 SBCT to be fully integrated into the DATE training.
Three battalions of the 3-2 SBCT field the Army’s IAV Stryker vehicles, which are highly deployable-wheeled armored vehicles combining firepower, mobility and versatility, with reduced logistics requirements. The mobility and transportability of the vehicles is significant to the “Arrowhead” brigade mission. The 3-2 SBCT mission has evolved to include being part of a realignment of forces strategy and serving as a ready contingency response force, explained Col. Hugh “Dave” Bair, commander of 3-2 SBCT.
“We’re aligned to the Pacific Command in the Pacific area of operations,” Bair said. “So, sometime in the spring of 2014 we will become a recognized force by the Army called the regionally aligned force.”
United States Pacific Command is one of six geographic Unified Combatant Commands of the U.S. Armed Forces around the world, and Army brigades are being designated as aligned forces to those commands.
As a RAF brigade, the 3-2 SBCT can perform a spectrum of missions, including humanitarian aid and disaster relief, in PACOM areas, said Bair. The PACOM commander would have the option of authorizing the brigade, or a customized portion of it, to go in quickly and establish security or stability until local forces can take over. The Stryker brigade can actually deploy anywhere in 96 hours and the brigade’s home station has force projection infrastructure to support movements by sea, land and even transporting Stryker vehicles on C-17 airplanes.
The partnership training at the NTC of the 3-2 SBCT and JGSDF was an extension of relationships that the U.S. maintains in the Pacific. Working with allies offers great opportunities during the evolution of the realignment strategy, said Bair.
“It just gives us opportunity to build familiarity as we grow our partnerships in the Pacific – certainly to build and learn from one another,” Bair said. “I think it’s exciting not only at an international level, obviously … but certainly it’s generating excitement for us, it’s generating excitement for our PACOM RAF mission as we get familiar with them. I think it’s going to be a fantastic rotation having them here.”
The NTC training identifies areas for improvement, recognizing areas of success and provides leader development – all the while facing an opposition force that is challenging and realistic, said Bair.
“It’s just very hard to replicate any of that at home station and, so, to come down here to a dedicated facility like the NTC and have that experience for three to four weeks is tremendous development – leader development at every level,” Bair said.
The brigade’s operations sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. Lynwood Bailey, said that Arrowhead Soldiers and non-commissioned officers benefit from the NTC, because they can practice decision-making and mistakes here are not costly.
“We put a lot of responsibility on NCO’s and Soldiers to make decisions and this is the place where they can make a decision and if it’s not the right one, we don’t lose a life,” Bailey said. “They get a good training objective out of it, understand their mistake and can learn from that mistake, and that’s how they become resilient.”
One NCO, who has taken advantage of NTC training several times, is Staff Sgt. Jefferey Fleming, howitzer section chief for 1st Section, 1st Platoon, A Battery, 1-37 Field Artillery, 3-2 SBCT. He has attended seven rotations at the NTC, since 2002, and has deployed five times. The majority of the nine Soldiers he leads were here for the first time. Fleming concurred with Bailey’s assessment of the training benefits at the NTC for Soldiers.
“It gives them time to make mistakes, which is necessary and gives us time to pinpoint those mistakes, learn from them … and be able to have a plan … so those mistakes won’t happen again,” Bailey said.
Fleming added that the entire process of moving to and training at the NTC prepares Soldiers to have a mindset for possible deployments.
“It gives them time to adjust being away from family and focus more on training,” Fleming said. “It’s great across the board for everyone, especially the younger Soldiers.”
Bailey explained that the 3-2 SBCT mission requires having an expeditionary mindset, because the unit, in addition to assisting in the Pacific, might be called upon to serve in a CRF operation.
“We have to be ready to go all the time, that’s what that contingency response force is,” Bailey said. “So when the President calls, we are ready, both physically, mentally. Our equipment is ready. We have that expeditionary mindset that we can live in austere environments, much like we see here at the NTC. We don’t need large amounts of infrastructure, we fight as we arrive – that’s the expeditionary mindset.”
The 3-2 SBCT has proven itself – it is the most deployed Stryker brigade with three deployments to Iraq and one to Afghanistan – to be ready for the next phase in its history. Bair described his Arrowhead unit as a formation of incredibly talented and resilient Soldiers, who in many cases, have the experience of deployments and working with other nations and understand the importance of engaged leadership and cooperation.
“It’s humbling to be able to command … such a formation that represents truly the finest, I think, that society has to offer,” Bair said.