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Warfighter exercise tests National Guard combat readiness

By Sgt. Marc Heaton | 29th Infantry Division | Oct. 17, 2019

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. – More than 450 National Guard Soldiers assigned to the 29th Infantry Division from Virginia and Maryland and Soldiers from seven other states participated in a Warfighter exercise Sept. 25-Oct. 11.

These Soldiers, and dozens more from the 28th Infantry Division in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and I Corps from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, joined in Warfighter 20-1 to test and evaluate the readiness of the division staff to operate as a forward-deployed command headquarters.

Also included in the training audience was the Arkansas National Guard’s 142nd Field Artillery Brigade and 77th Combat Aviation Brigade, the South Carolina National Guard’s 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, the New Mexico National Guard’s 111th Sustainment Brigade and the Virginia National Guard’s 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

"The 29th ID staff prepared for this important training event over the last 13 months and committed a significant amount of additional training days,” said Col. Preston Scott, the 29th ID chief of staff. "The preparations paid off as the staff increased its knowledge and improved its ability to integrate and synchronize intelligence."

The exercise was intended to validate and synchronize the decisive, shaping and sustaining operations from division down through the brigades and across all warfighting functions. The exercise focused on training and evaluating the various division staff elements and warfighting functions on command and control in a simulated, forward-deployed combat environment.

At each stage, new challenges were introduced to test the readiness of equipment and personnel.

"Warfighter is the premier command training event for a division headquarters," said Command Sgt. Maj. Alan Ferris, 29th Infantry Division. "It is the only place where all levels of the organization, from division down through the various brigades and battalions, can come together in a simulated conflict and execute all of their warfighting functions at the same time."

Soldiers from I Corps served as the division’s higher-headquarters for the exercise, while the 101st Airborne Division and 28th operated alongside the 29th in the simulation. That helped add to the sense of realism by providing leaders within the division the opportunity to coordinate and interact with units at various levels and locations, even across time zones, as they would in a real-world scenario.

"A warfighter exercise is the pinnacle training event for a division staff. This simulation challenges members to rapidly assess unfamiliar terrain, geopolitical conditions and a peer adversary in order to develop detailed plans to defeat our competition in large scale ground combat operations," said Scott.

The exercise was overseen by observer coach/trainers and senior mentors from the Mission Command Training Support Program from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. They mentored and provided feedback to all staff members, from the initial planning to the after-action review.

"My biggest takeaway from this exercise has been how the Army National Guard continues to be a learning organization. We started the exercise working slowly and methodically, learning from one another, and by the end, it all culminated in mission success,” said Ferris.