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166th Aviation Brigade (Training Support)

The 166th Aviation Brigade (Training Support) conducts major mobilization training operations for brigade-sized aviation commands at Mobilization Training Centers across the United States. Headquartered at Fort Hood, Texas the 166th Aviation Brigade is a multi-component (Active Component/Reserve Component) command providing mobilization training support to Army Reserve and National Guard aviation units. The 166th Aviation Brigade's mission is as important as it is unique, with the Brigade being the only unit in the Army with the authority to validate the post-mobilization training of Reserve Component aviation units, which as of 2009 made up 47 percent of the Army's total aviation force.

The 166th Aviation Brigade (Training Support) was first constituted on 16 September 1988 in the Army Reserve as Headquarters, 166th Aviation Group and activated on 16 September 1990 in Germany. It was inactivated on 15 June 1997 in Germany.

The unit was reorganized and redesignated on 24 October 1997 as Headquarters, 166th Aviation Brigade, and allotted to the Regular Army. It was concurrently activated at Fort Riley, Kansas. There the 166th Aviation Brigade became part of the 89th Regional Support Command. The mission of the 166th Aviation Brigade, as an Army Reserve training support brigade, was to provides pre- and post-mobilization support to units mobilized at Fort Riley. The Brigade's mission was specifically to provide pre-mobilization leader and collective training assistance and support. The Brigade's main focus was providing training support, assistance, and evaluation to client units. The Brigade also provided assistance to civilian authorities during peacetime crises and/or natural disasters.

Unit and individual training objectives were the key to mobilization training. Mobilizing units had to complete all Phase III activities and personnel readiness processing at the mobilization station as quickly as possible. If a soldier was not deployable, it would not matter how well trained he or she was. Commanders identified administrative or soldier readiness activities that could not be accomplished or completed prior to beginning training, and made specific recommendations as to when they planned to accomplish these activities.

Once training began, focused training blocks such as a weapons training block and a maneuver training block were used. These blocks might overlap. However, they allow the 166th Aviation Brigade to concentrate their limited resources. Units completed individual/crew and weapons system qualification prior to major collective training events. Weapons systems were expected to be in better shape and maneuver without the ability to deliver accurate and controlled fires were seen as having little value.

Battle staff training was often over looked. Individual and small unit collective training periods were excellent opportunities to conduct battle staff training. Units achieved much higher degrees of Mission Essential Task List (METL) task proficiency when they trained their battle staffs early and then involved the trained staff in the execution of the collective METL training event. This was just basic multiechelon training, but it was surprising how many units did not use the technique.

The 166th Aviation Brigade used a crawl-walk-run approach to achieving METL proficiency. It would begin with individual, leader, and small unit collective training. As proficiency (both unit and staff) was achieved, then slice and combined arms aspects would be integrated. The standard for validation was pre-mobilization and core METL tasks trained to a "T" level, post-mobilization tasks to a "P" level, and all battle staff tasks trained to a "T" level.

Units needed the opportunity to conduct internal assessments prior to external evaluations as well. When possible, maneuver training blocks were scheduled prior to any external evaluation. Company level external evaluations (EXEVAL) were used for both pre- and post-mobilization METL tasks. Each battalion and the brigade headquarters also underwent an EXEVAL CPX. The CPX evaluations focused on battle staff METLs and could be scheduled early in the training period.

Members of the 2nd Training Support Battalion, 166th Aviation Brigade, Fort Riley, Kansas responded to the local community in a time of greatest need. Sergeant Major Freddy Escamilla, Sergeant First Class Vern A. Kreutzer, Captain Kevin K. Zurmeuhlen, and Major Charles Wright worked from 15 to 22 September 1999 to bring a donated building to livable standards. They replaced plumbing and light fixtures, repaired the ceiling and then painted and cleaned the building. The building became the Good Samaritan House sponsored by the Vinland Community Church in Manhattan, Kansas. This facility was designed to support families in need of food and clothing. Once the Good Samaritan House was operational, the group of 4, with support from other members of their Battalion, collected 2 pickup truck loads of clothing, toys and food for the Good Samaritan House. The donated items were sorted, cleaned and stocked for needy families. The 4 had provided for the needy of the local community.

A member of the Vinland Community Church, Manhattan, Kansas who had heard about the charitable work of the 2nd Training Support Battalion notified them that a retired, paraplegic veteran was about to lose his home for violating a Grand View Plaza, Kansas city ordnance. The retired NCO's house had fallen into disrepair. The city council had given the Veteran 30 days to comply with the law or his house would be torn down. The soldiers, Major Charles S. Wright, Sergeant Major Freddy Escamilla, Sergeant First Class William P. Gammon, Master Sergeant John W. Morris, Sergeant First Class Vern A. Kreutzer, Sergeant First Class Marcus S. Brown, Sergeant First Class Moses L. Clerk, Master Sergeant Paul N. Weidhas, and Sergeant First Class Gerald Chambers, members of the 2nd Training Support Battalion, 166th Aviation Brigade at Fort Riley, Kansas were glad to lend a hand. They came to the aid of the disabled veteran by cleaning the yard, removing over 5000 pounds of trash, and mowing the property. Through their efforts the city council extended the eviction notice by 90 days. The decision was due mainly because of the work of the generous 8.

The 166th Aviation Brigade was inactivated at Fort Riley, Kansas on 16 October 1999 at Fort Riley, Kansas as part of the decision to inactivate the separate training brigades assigned to Fifth US Army and reorganize the capability into a number of training divisions.

Headquarters, 166th Aviation Brigade was reactivated on 1 December 2006 at Fort Riley, Kansas. The Army's transformation in the 2000s necessitated restructuring the roles and missions of First US Army and Fifth US Army to support reserve component modularity and the Army Force Generation process known as Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN). First US Army's training mission expanded on 16 January 2006 to include training, readiness oversight and mobilization for US Army Reserve and National Guard units throughout the continental United States and two US territories. The transition of the expanded geographic mission began in mid-December 2005 with the transfer of authority between First US Army and Fifth US Army for the Western United States. Previously, First Army trained, mobilized and deployed US Army Reserve and National Guard units in the eastern United States, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. The 166th Aviation Brigade became assigned to the expanded First US Army as part of Division West.

The 166th Aviation Brigade assisted with the mobilization of the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade in 2008 to serve as the corps aviation brigade in Iraq. This training took place at Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Rucker, Alabama; and Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Brigade had also conducted training for mobilizing aviators at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and Camp Atterbury, Indiana.

The 166th Aviation Brigade was relocated to Fort Hood, Texas on 15 August 2009, with the plan the the rest of its associated units would follow in 2010.

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