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Texas Guardsmen train with Australian army for Talisman Saber

July 29, 2013

By Staff Sgt. Suzanne Ringle

Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington - Texas' 36th Infantry Division deployed approximately 150 soldiers to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington state, July 14-29. The soldiers participated in the fifth Talisman Saber training exercise. Talisman Saber 2013 is a U.S. and Australian multiservice military training exercise involving nearly 30,000 troops in a complex and realistic war-fighting scenario. In order for the scenarios to be authentic as possible, the exercise design included conditions for actions to take place on several levels, including civilian living conditions and infrastructure concerns. In these scenarios each separate element relies on another's information or actions.

The Arrowhead Division soldiers' command and control efforts in a computer center fed into higher elements' operations halfway around the world. At the same time an exercise of this scale allows the division headquarters to work within a combined task force. "We are very interested in learning staff processes," said 36th ID Commander Maj. Gen. James K. "Red" Brown. "Since the 2010 deployment, we have new people in new jobs. Most of the people that are here have done some type of job in a division headquarters but probably not the job that they are doing."

The 36th Division soldiers, or "T-Patchers," gained new understanding of the processes involved at a variety of decision-making levels. Brown sees the exercise as a superior and cost-effective way to train those in his command, saying, "This is the Army of today. These systems that we use are the systems we go to war with. This is an in-depth exercise over multiple days in current Army systems, current Army doctrine and working at a level that we normally don't get to do. So this (training) is very beneficial."

Ten days into the exercise, new and old staff members said they had developed into a much more effective team. Division operations officer, Lt. Col. Danny Quick said this staff had developed synchronization tools he had seen others take months to create.

Division chief intelligence officer, Lt. Col. Paul Nunn said, "I would highly recommend this type of exercise for other Divisions in the Army. It offered a different environment with combinations of all sorts of geo-political interests, different terrain or problems that we may run into. I thought it was very well designed."

T-Patch soldiers working in the response cell provided training for the division staff and higher elements by moving their units in computer tracking systems, responding to their assigned missions and sending up incident reports from their area of responsibility. Soldiers acted in roles well above their current rank. Capt. April Frye, 36th ID Physician's Assistant-turned Brigade Commander for the exercise, said, "I've had to grab a lot of information and resources from the personnel around me. We have people here with limited experiences but collectively we have a multitude of experience at different levels from Battalion and below this makes our positions in this exercise easier."

This mission has the Guardsman working two shifts in rooms filled with three- screened computers and the air humming with a palpable sense of urgency. Like a scene out of a movie, the information flow sounds like controlled chaos from the interspersed ringing phones to shouts of, "Attention in the TOC!" or, "Call Division and get that info to them now!"

Maj. Jessica Emery, 36th ID military intelligence officer, who helped the response cell said she has seen them quickly master their new positions. "I am very proud of all of them… Over the past week our level of understanding, across the board, has improved one hundred percent every single day, every day it is that much better."

Soldiers performing an unfamiliar job can be apprehensive. One of the priorities of the 36th ID Commander was that the soldiers come away from training knowing they can do any job asked of them. New to the unit and fresh out of Army basic and advanced individual training, Spec. LaToya Lockhart, ammunitions supply specialist said, "At first I was confused at what I really need to do, but then it just clicked and now I am even more confident. During this mission I was real glad to see the other side of the Army, the mental side. Don't get me wrong, I like the physical part too."

The training during this exercise was as real as it could get, Capt. Frye said, "during one incident where casualties were part of the scenario she felt a real emotional reaction," further saying she believed that knowing how the situation feels before it happens is helpful preparation.

The Talisman Saber exercise brings together U.S. and Australian forces every two years. The two militaries have strengthened and improved their ability to plan, communicate, and conduct complex operations together. A partnership fostered by the first U.S. Naval Fleet visit in 1908. For over one hundred years our two forces and governments have solidified into a great partnership through training and fighting together. We have served alongside each other in every major conflict since WWII.

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