Grit was flying and sweat pouring in the Garden State this summer when members of the 43rd Military Police Brigade hit the dirt after putting boots on the ground at the Fort Dix U.S. Army Support Activity, in New Jersey, for their two weeks of annual training.
Armed with shovels, rakes and sledgehammers, it was a hands-on, collaborative effort by all ranks from officer to the lowest enlisted as the Brigade soldiers tackled their first order of business—the task of manually leveling terrain in the sandy, field-environment; and setting up a deployable, rapid assembly Standard Integrated Command Post System.
Once completed, the massive shelter served as the hub of activity for a Command Post of the Future exercise, a primary focus of the annual training mission; to ensure continued operational readiness and prepare the Brigade for its upcoming Warfighter exercise next year.
The U.S. Army's Command Post of the Future, known as CPOF, is a command and control software system that enables warfighters to visualize the battlefield and plan the mission through a dynamic view of critical resources and events.
Through its collaborative work space, CPOF gives commanders “topsight” of the battlefield and allows operators to collaborate with superiors, peers and subordinates over live data.
“It’s satisfying to watch the organization use these tools to provide command and control for over 3000 soldiers, potentially, in a combat environment,” said Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Guertin, Deputy Brigade Commander of the 43rd.
“The staff really came together around that idea. That we need to provide the best products and decision-making capability for those four or five battalions in the harshest conditions,” he added.
Along with the demands of CPOF, the Brigade simultaneously plowed on maintaining a rigorous daily schedule to accomplish an array of other training requirements.
Land navigation refresher training may have started off comfortably—at the barracks in a classroom setting among peers and morning coffee. That’s where the Soldiers brushed up on their understanding of map-scaling systems, terrain association, and how to plot grid coordinates using a military protractor.
Simple amenities were left at door, however, when the troops were later transported to the field, split into groups of threes and sent deep into the woods to test their ability to locate a series of checkpoints by plotting their course on a map and shooting a magnetic azimuth using a lensatic compass.
Fort Dix’s land navigation course challenged the Soldiers’ abilities to maintain their bearings and keep their wits about them as they made their way through dense and water-saturated areas of forest, ripe with thorns, thickets and insects.
A reprieve, of sorts, from the field environment came when it was time to go indoors and hop aboard the standardized Humvee Egress Assistance Trainer, known as HEAT.
Unveiled in 2007 during the surge of the Iraqi war, HEAT is a full-size simulator designed to train Soldiers on how to survive a vehicle rollover.
Oddly enough, Soldiers seem to enjoy a chance to train on the HEAT—as if thrilled by a ride at an amusement park, while it rotates up to 360 degrees. But they know that this training is serious business, providing an experience that might one day save their lives.
During the training Soldiers rehearse under controlled conditions how to orient themselves in a rolled-over Humvee and execute the steps required to successfully exit the overturned vehicle.
This involves releasing their seatbelts while hanging from an upside-down position, assisting other soldiers, and collecting any “injured” individuals. Upon exiting the Humvee, the Soldiers must be ready to access the situation, report to the leader; and if necessary, defend themselves against “enemy attack”.
Soon enough, the Soldiers also had to brave a march through the gas chamber. Some of them were even heard days in advance chatting about how many CS tablets might be used this time around.
CS is a riot control agent that causes a burning sensation, tearing of the eyes and profuse irritation of the of the nose, mouth and throat. If less tablets are used it’s not too bad, but that’s something the Soldiers don’t usually know in advance.
Inside the chamber, they are required to remove their masks to experience the effects of the gas.
This type of training keeps Soldiers familiar with the features and utilization of their personal protective equipment and gives them confidence in its ability to safeguard them against nuclear, biological and chemical hazards.
Between blocks of warrior training tasks, downtime was maximized by introducing the lower enlisted members to knowledge and skills preparing them for the future of their military careers, including the Army’s Basic Leadership Course.
The young Soldiers learned about troop leading procedures, a decision-making tool for direct leaders. And got some hands-on experience practicing squad movement techniques. All under the expertise of Capt. Jason Garrahan, a civilian police officer and commander of the Brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company.
And adding a touch of military etiquette to the Brigade’s time in the field, the training grounds of Fort Dix also set the stage for the pinning ceremony of 2nd Lt. Trent Hastings, a former sergeant who was commissioned as an officer after serving 16 years in the enlisted ranks.