FORT IRWIN, Calif. — U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from the 426th Civil Affairs (CA) (Airborne), 351st Civil Affairs Command, United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (USACAPOC), based out of Upland, California, honed their warrior tasks and skills during a field training event Aug. 27, 2022, in Junction City, National Training Center (NTC), Fort Irwin, Calif. Regular training in basic skills develops competent Soldiers, leaders, and formations that support the Army’s number one priority — readiness; it results in the muscle memory needed in combat to defeat our nation’s foes.
“Today we are doing mock SALUT reports,” said Sgt. Jose Chavez, Alpha Company, 426th CA Bn., 351st CA Command, USACAPOC, signal support systems specialist, as he placed green plastic soldiers in the dirt to make a makeshift sand table to be used in the training scenario.
SALUT reports are relayed over the radio during a patrol or mission in order to inform the chain of command of an encountered enemy’s size, activity, location and unit, as well as the the time of the incident.
“We have the Soldiers identify what they are seeing on the ground standing a little bit away from the table and then send up a report on a live radio,” Chavez said. “It may not be that easy for them to see what is going on from a distance, but that can happen in real life. You may not be able to get up close — for safety or other extenuating reasons. We just want them to be as accurate and detailed as possible about what they are seeing and to be able to relay that up the chain quickly.”
“It also gives them a chance to work on their radio etiquette,” Chavez added. “You never know who might be asked to call up a report, whether it be in a training scenario or during a real event. Everyone should be able to do it.”
Chavez, who is originally from San Bernardino, said he enjoys training at NTC because it gets his soldiers out of their comfort zone.
“It has that deployment feel, you know,” said Chavez. “The buildings… the desert heat, it has that realism. You have to be more aware and mentally prepared. It also gets us out here away from the city where we can be isolated and train without any distractions.”
The premier National Training Center at Fort Irwin hosts thousands of U.S. military service members, as well as other government agencies and foreign military from around the world each year in its 12 mock-up villages that provide visiting training units with a unique immersive experience in which to hone their skills and develop their leadership abilities.
“Here, you’re in the environment… You know, train as you fight,” said Master Sgt. Jordan Logan, 426th CA Bn., 351st CA Command, USACAPOC, acting 1st sgt. “When you are in a classroom environment there is no space…no movement. There’s no place to go where you are immersed. Coming here– the convoy, the heat, the long hours.. being set into a unique environment… you cannot duplicate that back in the rear.”
Logan, who served in both the Marines Corps and Army as an infantryman and trainer for several years before becoming a member of the civil affairs community, says practicing basic soldiering skills, like how to relay a radio report, is crucial.
“Growing up as an infantryman, having had that background, I like to see my soldiers training and taking initiative,” Logan said. “Communication training is important. You know– shoot, move and communicate… so we can survive to do our jobs.”
Logan explained foundational skills are what come before, during and after everything else. Mastering those basics and developing muscle memory to perform them under stress allows troops to expand their knowledge and adapt to new problem sets while still being able to function as a soldier.
Soldiers from the 426th CA trained at the premier NTC throughout the weekend, starting with a skills refresher for Alpha Company, who set up in the field as the rest of their contingency completed airborne operations in Van Nuys, Calif. They then participated in a comprehensive situational training exercise that challenged their ability to assess situations, move tactically through a village, communicate with various local leaders and solve problems on the ground — and then to report that information back to their higher command.