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Story by Sgt. Kenneth Tucceri, 65th Press Camp Headquarters, Massachusetts Army National Guard
Video by Sgt. Dave Wilkinson, 65th Press Camp Headquarters Massachusetts Army National Guard
FORT DRUM, NY – The Massachusetts National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 182nd Infantry Regiment conducted a four-day training drill May 19–22 at Fort Drum, New York to prepare for an arduous and prestigious training exercise at the Army’s Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana in July.
The JRTC is a comprehensive training site which features realistic combat circumstances designed to measure and increase the readiness of a brigade. The Fort Drum training is a culminating step in the process of the battalion’s preparation.
“I think the training went exceptionally well this weekend,” said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Gary Comeau, the command sergeant major of the battalion. “We moved pretty much 300 miles from our home station armories to arrive here at Fort Drum and conduct a combined–arms training event with Stryker vehicles, with Air Force enablers, with every fighting asset that is involved in an Infantry Brigade Combat team.”
The main objective of mobilizing the battalion to Fort Drum is to serve as valuable preparation for the approaching JRTC rotation, which is considered by many as the Super Bowl of Army training exercises.
“Four days of training; our second-to-last drill prior to JRTC,” said Army Lt. Col. Kenneth Wisniewski III, the battalion commander. “We had an outstanding training weekend up here at Fort Drum. A lot of travel time on either end, so we put a lot of training into a relatively small block of time, and we’ve seen huge dividends thus far into the weekend.”
For the soldiers, transporting their gear, vehicles, equipment and other essentials from Massachusetts to Fort Drum’s location in upstate New York was the initial obstacle that the regiment undertook for this exercise.
For Army Pfc. Leomar Monimejia, with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the battalion, the journey from the regiment’s headquarters in Melrose, Massachusetts, to Fort Drum was his longest trip in a convoy to date. Monimejia was tasked with operating a Humvee. Though the ride was challenging at times, Monimejia stated encouragement from his leadership and the four stops along the way assisted in keeping the drive safe and successful.
The excursion to the New York military post has added significance in that the battalion is to be assigned to the New York National Guard’s 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which is set to take effect in the next training year. While remaining in its current New England locations, the 182nd will be added as the third infantry battalion in the brigade, along with the existing 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment, and the 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry Regiment.
The 27th IBCT falls under the 42nd Infantry Division, known as the “Rainbow Division,” a moniker made famous by Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur stating the division would “stretch over the whole country like a rainbow,” in reference to the inclusion of units from 26 states.
In the 182nd, the 27th IBCT is gaining a regiment steeped in history. The unit’s beginnings date back to 1636 and include engagements in King Philip’s War in 1675–1678 up to a mobilization to Afghanistan in 2011–2012.
Both the transition to a new brigade and the lead–up to JRTC has been years in the making.
“Over the last two years the battalion has progressed from squad-level training, through platoon, company, and we have now reached battalion collective training level events…it’s been a lot of hard work,” said Army Maj. Tom Clark, the battalion operations and training officer. “We’ve seen a lot of young platoon leaders, a lot of great NCOs have really stepped up to the plate, and they’ve really brought this battalion to a great high level of training.”
From the command of the battalion to the younger enlisted, the Massachusetts regiment is enthusiastic about the preparation they received at Fort Drum and are eager to participate in the major training event in Louisiana this summer.
“I’m expecting to be challenged on every level,” said Spc. Spencer Harrington, a soldier with B Company, “Physically, mentally, I’m expecting the unexpected…all my maneuvers, my coordination, my communication, every aspect I expect to be thoroughly tested. It’s a full spectrum battle, and that is very fascinating for me. I want to see that. I want to see all the different elements of our Army working together in that grand cohesion. I want to see that manifest.”
Spc. Sylvester Egidio, a machinegun team leader with C Company, was with the unit in 2015 when they did their two-week Annual Training at Fort Drum, which also had a cumulative training objective with JRTC in mind. Now with the main mission only weeks away, Egidio is excited, nervous, and appreciative of the developed training approach that the regiment was a part of.
“We’re just putting finishing touches on the gun crews and how we are going to employ our weapons,” said Egidio, who explained the crawl, walk, run approach to this training. “We started doing walk-throughs in our armory…just know your weapon, basic things, how to weigh your gear, know where you’d be when we are setting up, things like that…and it progresses to when my guys hit the ground here they know what’s expected of them, they know their job, they know it well, and it is so much more fluid.”
To keep all the differing aspects in concert with each other, leadership is paramount in keeping things running smoothly and effectively.
“It is probably the most important ingredient in preparing our sons and our daughters for combat,” said Comeau. “We get America’s sons and daughters entrusted into our care and in the infantry community of purpose we ask them to do some very dangerous things. I think that if they trust us, if they see that we are setting the right example—and that we care for them—which my NCOs and our officers definitely do, then they perform at optimal levels for us, and I’m very gracious for what they do for us.”
With the cumulative approach of the training leading up to the exercise, the training at Fort Drum was the initial event that featured brigade–level operations. With this, issues were expected and, likewise, solutions anticipated.
“We are at the point where we are doing it for the first time as a full brigade, as a brigade-level exercise, all collective from company-level on up, executing all our main command systems with the primary focus on radio communications,” said Army Col. Joseph Biehler, brigade commander of the 27th IBCT. “And making sure we can talk to everybody from brigade-level down to platoon-level. And if we run into problems, we are going to work those problems through or identify them and work on them before we get down to JRTC.”
The intent of the Fort Drum training exercise was to identify any procedural issues and refine them accordingly for optimal functionality at JRTC.
“This is an outstanding unit, the 182nd, what I got to witness this weekend as a battalion commander is a total combined-arms fight,” said Wisniewski. “We had integration with Stryker Company, Alpha Company, 112th out of Pennsylvania, and we also had Air Force personnel, JTAC [Joint Terminal Attack Controller], second call for close-air support as well as field artillery and other IBCT assets made for one very good combined-arms fight here.”
With one remaining drill weekend standing in between the Massachusetts National Guardsmen of the battalion and the build up to JRTC, through all the preparation, confidence is high in regard to mission success.
“It’s extremely high and it is growing every day,” said Comeau. “Over the last two years this battalion has put forth a tremendous effort in readying itself to going to Joint Readiness Training Center which is just a few short days from now.”
Only one National Guard brigade a year is granted the opportunity to train at JRTC. With the 1–182nd battalion leading the way, the 27th IBCT possesses the assets for success.
“The 182nd, this is a very strong battalion,” said Wisniewski, “some of the most highly skilled soldiers, NCOs, officers I’ve ever worked with, and I have my highest faith and confidence in this unit for a very successful JRTC rotation.”
Command Sergeant Major
Carlos Ramos Rivera
State Command Sergeant Major