Each year, Army Reserve and Army National Guard units complete an Army Annual Training Event. This is typically a 10-17 day exercise where the unit deploys to a local military installation to complete their major training objectives. I’ve found that most units complete their Annual Training in the summer time, but it can also happen during the spring or fall.
Most units travel to their closest military installation so they can conduct weapons qualification, METL training, Warrior Task Training, Collective Training and a variety of other training events. In many cases, the units participate with their battalion, brigade, or division to complete a major training event or capstone exercise.
Depending upon how prepared the unit leadership is, Annual Training can be a complete waste of time or it can be a huge success. Some units conduct awesome training events and others do the bare minimum. Ultimately, the responsibility rests on the unit leader to plan, prepare and conduct a thorough and well planned training event.
In the paragraphs below, I want to share a few helpful tips for small unit leaders (Battalion and below) so they can have a successful, fun and challenging Annual Training.
- Pick your Major 2-3 Objectives: If you’re good at what you do, you might be able to train on 2-3 METL tasks during Annual Training. Make sure you set some goals, prioritize what you want to accomplish, and “set a vision” about what you want to achieve during AT. I think it’s wiser to focus on 2-3 major things and do them well, than try to accomplish 25 different things and do them half-ass.
- Draft up Your Game Plan: Once you know what you want to achieve, you need to sit down with your staff and conduct MDMP or the Troop Leading Procedures to figure out what resources you need, what training areas you need, what support you need and from whom, etc. After you’ve done this, you need to formalize everything in an OPORD. This is your final plan.
- Create a Training Schedule: Make sure you have a detailed training schedule. Once you know your big goals, and you’ve developed a game plan (OPORD), it’s time to put that in writing and think about all the details. This information will go in your training schedule and will provide a snap shot of your hour-by-hour break-down during Annual Training.
- Acquire the Resources Ahead of Time: You need to coordinate and schedule resources ahead of time. That means you need to schedule training locations, ammo, equipment and other resources you will need to complete your training to standard. Make a list of everything you need (and don’t have) and make sure your full-time AGR staff is acquiring these items ahead of time. You don’t want to be scrambling a few days before AT to get what you need.
- Prepare Your Equipment Ahead of Time: Make sure that your unit takes good care of their equipment at all times. Several months prior to Annual Training, make sure your mechanics and platoons are preparing their equipment. You want all your equipment to be fully mission capable. That means you need to do inventories, PMCS and scheduled services ahead of time. If your equipment is broke, you won’t be able to use it during Annual Training. So be proactive and get if fixed way ahead of time.
- Strive for Maximum Participation: You can’t always control how many people are actually assigned to your unit, but you can control how many of your assigned soldiers attend Annual Training. In order to maximize your training, you need maximum participation. Make sure you bring as many people to your Annual Training as you can. I know it’s impossible to bring everyone, but make sure your people know you expect them to be at their Army Annual Training.
- Make Things Tough and Challenging: People joined the Army to get dirty, be challenged, and blow things up. Schedule training events that meet that criteria. Think outside the box and schedule a few tough, unusual and challenging training events. Give your soldiers something to talk about (or brag about) when they get home.
- Visit Different Training Sites When Possible: I know of some units that visit the same training site 10, 20 or even 30 years in a row. Personally, I think that is boring. If possible, try to see if you can conduct your Annual Training in a different location from time-to-time. Try to pick up an overseas Annual Training if you can (often referred to as ODT). Make things exciting and mix things up. Even if it’s extra work for you, it will be worth it.
- Keep Things on Track: As the leader, you must keep everyone focused during AT. That means you shouldn’t deviate from the training schedule. You must manage your time wisely, keep your subordinate leaders on task, and follow the schedule you have planned. You will face lots of potential distractions. It’s up to you to keep everything moving in the right direction.
- Have Fun: I know we’re all in the Army and are supposed to be tough and serious, but I think it’s a wise idea to try and have some fun during Annual training too. This means you should schedule a few MWR Events, such as a cookout or Family Day if possible. Schedule a few other fun activities too, such as a Commander’s Cup, a sporting event, or talent competition. It won’t take much time, especially if you schedule it during non-productive time. And the results will be great for soldier morale.
In summary, Army Annual Training is normally conducted once a year by all Army Reserve and Army National Guard units. It’s typically the unit’s major training event of the fiscal year. As a leader, you want to make sure your Annual Training is fun, challenging, and successful. The best way to do that is by preparation. You must develop a game plan ahead of time, coordinate and schedule the required resources ahead of time, have maximum participation during AT, and be proactive throughout Annual Training. If you can do that, your AT will be a huge success. Best of all, your unit will be better prepared and unit morale will be high.