Over 4,000 Soldiers and Airmen from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, known as “Black Jack,” battled the opposing force (OPFOR) 11th Cavalry Regiment, known as “Black Horse,” in the decisive action annual exercise at the National Training Center (NTC), Fort Irwin, Ca.. Apr. 1-26.
“The National Training Center provides the only environment that can truly test a brigade combat team’s capability at all echelons from the platoon level to the brigade,” said Maj. Ryan Kroells, operations officer, 2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. “It tests the true strength of the Soldier, the equipment, and our training to confirm lethality in an urban and large terrain environment, ensuring the brigade is optimized and synchronized in all requirements for future missions.”
The initial phases of the deployment occur at a place called the Rotational Units Bivouac Area (RUBA) in the city of Gardeket, Atropia. While the reception, staging, onward movement, and integration (RSOI) phase includes equipment draw and MILES install, a desire for a peaceful resolution is still at hand. Col. Jeremy Wilson, the Chief of Mission to Atropia, and the Atropian Governor have a joint press conference. Atropia gives a final call for ethnic resolution between the three factions, but the Donovian military fails to comply. After last efforts are made for a diplomatic resolution, the Donovians act pre-emptively and cross the international border.
The Donovian’s disregard for international law is the exigence for war.
The brigade, tasked with defending the international border, developed combat power quickly and deployed north into “The Box,” the maneuver forces training area within Fort Irwin.
Fighting with an expeditionary mindset, small footprint, and the ability to jump quickly from one location to another is the method the brigade employed since its Pegasus Forge IV training event before the NTC decisive action rotation.
“The brigade is building the capacity to deploy fight and win worldwide at a moment’s notice in any condition,” said Col. Jeremy Wilson, commander, 2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div.
The war takes place between Black Jack and a fictional adversary, but the execution simulates combat operations as much as possible.
Establishing a tactical mindset is the brigade commander’s intent.
Walk inside the TOC and the attitude of the warfighters is not at the National Training Center. The emotion, intensity, and stress levels are indicative of an expeditionary deployment to Atropia, where the Donovian military has breached the international border, violated U.N. Security Council Resolutions, and 2nd BCT is the defender of a sovereign government who desires a peaceful and stable nation.
Every action has its reaction in a battle condensed to fit the timeframe of the training scenario. The operational tempo equates to long hours, little sleep, and continuous stressing of the brigade’s systems across every war-fighting function.
Black’s organic units do not fight alone. Elements of Special Operations, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Aviation, Civil Affairs, and Psychological Operations deploy together to train in interoperability of functional areas not always found at the brigade combat team level. Each enabler provides a unique advantage to the commander giving them a wide array of options to shape the battlefield.
“The one thing we cannot replicate in our home station training is integrating with the Battalion’s and Brigade Staff,” said Capt. John Nielson, commander, A. Co., 450th Bn. “We bring a significant amount of expertise and experience from our Civil Affairs training and our civilian careers, but if we can’t translate it to actionable information for the BCT, then it’s useless. That’s what we get here.”
Enablers help shape the battlefield for the commander by supporting the maneuver units as they close with and destroy enemy forces on the ground.
The decisive action rotation allows Soldiers to simulate a battle against a world-class OPFOR who does not play by the rules. The reality of the nature of the OPFOR and environment in which the struggle takes place cannot be replicated at home station. NTC gives the Soldier at the individual level, and Brigade at the collective level, the opportunity to test their mettle in battlefield conditions.
Private Tyler Colter, 91D, generator mechanic, B. Co., 15BSB deployed with his unit to NTC two weeks after arriving from basic training. Colter worked beyond his military occupational specialty assisting his unit in any capacity, even performing as the radio operator.
“The training was like a deployment,” said Colter. “We all got little sleep, and you never knew what was going to happen and when. Everything kept you on the edge of your seat.”
Colter said the training was beneficial because you have to be prepared for anything. And that includes getting attacked at any time and being prepared to do other jobs to support the mission.
After two weeks training, Wilson said Black Jack exceeded expectations in every measurable area and gave the OPFOR a challenge during every mission.