On Feb. 20, 2020, Maj. Gen. Antonio Aguto, Commander 3rd Infantry Division, visited the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Irwin, Calif. This visit provided an opportunity for a former Regimental Commander to see how the 11th ACR has continued to hone their trade and increase lethality here at the National Training Center.
Aguto was greeted by Col. Scott Woodward, 68th Colonel of the Regiment, and Command Sergeant Major Anthony Walker, 23rd Commander Sergeant Major of the Regiment, at the Holder Conference room with in the Regimental Headquarters building. The engagement started with a tour of the new headquarters building and reminiscing of Aguto’s time as the 64th Colonel of the Regiment. He shared that his “fondest memory were the people; the soldiers, the non-commissioned officers, the officers. We ask a lot of the regiment day in day out, we ask a lot of our families. No matter what we asked they always came together. Of all the units I’ve ever been in the Army this was the tightest closest knit community; the Regiment and the National Training Center at large that I’ve ever experienced.” After admiring the upgrades to the building and seeing the preservation of history on the walls Col. Woodward began a capabilities brief of the Blackhorse Regiment that was focused to some of the more advanced aspects of what the Regiment is replicating. Maj. Gen. Aguto summed up the changes he saw in the training area to “A lot of it has to do with the multi domain operations. Your ability to target with signal, with intelligence, with electronic warfare, with open source information all those things that really are multi domain you’ve gotten extremely well at. The regiment is significantly better now than it was when I was here as 64th Col.”.
The discussion took a turn to the most recent rotation of 20-04 where his 1st Brigade was put to the test during the 14 days. The general Aguto was asked what advantages he passed along to his Brigade with his prior Blackhorse time. He responded with “Oh I gave them everything. I told them how you fought, exactly what ground to kill em on but, you know the beauty of this place you can give them the answer but brigades generally hurt themselves with their inability to do certain things. My advantage to them was I told them everything I knew about this place but if they don’t come in ready to execute they just hurt themselves.” Aguto compared the ferocity of the Blackhorse fight now to when he was Colonel as the “same, whether we were doing it as an MRE (Mission Rehearsal Exercise) or whether we were doing it as large ground scale combat operations. That esprit de corps from this Regiment makes every soldier here, every Trooper here feel like part of a team which really makes you probably one of the most formidable forces on the battlefield.” After the capabilities brief and a bit of discussion about the most recent rotation the group moved to the Blackhorse conference room where Aguto led a short Leaders Professional Development (LPD) question and answer.
The target audience for the Regiment was Troop Commanders, 1st Sergeants, Squadron Command teams and Regimental Staff. During this time He shared that “my greatest accomplishment as RCO was, when I was here, we did the swap. We went from an MRE (mission rehearsal exercise) Regiment fighting COIN (counterinsurgency) to a Regiment that had to learn to fight large-scale ground-combat operations. That was something else to watch, now you guys are definitely better than we ever were back then but, to get the Regiment back into fighting maneuver; that was pretty awesome to see.” Topics of discussion ranged from specific event that occurred during rotation to overall Army Doctrine and the modernization of the US Military. He offered words of advice for the leaders while here at Fort Irwin; “when you are here you have to take every opportunity you have to still remember your craft. So, if I’m an M1 Tanker there are certain things you apply as an M1 Tanker driving an MBT [Main Battle Tank] but you still have the responsibility to know your craft as an M1 Tanker or a Bradley driver, or a Scout, or an Infantry squad. So, again taking the lessons you learn as OPFOR [opposing forces] and applying it to what your craft is going to be when you go and practicing that every time you go out in the box.” Aguto then shared some advice to the Troopers when returning to the conventional Army; “take the lessons you learned here and figure out how to apply it to what you’re going to do next. There are a lot of lessons that get lost. If RTU [rotational training unit] or brigades can figure out how to synchronize enablers, or build the deep fight, or understand the picture like you do in the Regiment they would be significantly better.” Upon completion of the LPD the time transitioned into a celebration of Cavalry traditions with sharing of stories from the rotation and building comradery amongst Troopers. Overall this engagement allowed current Troopers to learn about the past of the Regiment and to get candid feedback as to how they have developed over the years in replicating a lethal near-peer threat.