My Best Army National Guard Annual Training Ever

I have been in the Oregon Army National Guard for ten years. Seven of it I spent enlisted in an aviation unit, and the last 3+ years have been spent as a commissioned officer in the RSTA squadron. As I prepare for my second deployment, I have seen my fair share of annual trainings, both preparing for deployment and in different phases of the ARFORGEN cycle.

I have had some really laid back ATs that were home station, and I’ve had some that were month long trips to Gowen Field, ID. Is there one that stands out in my mind? You bet. There are two. Here are my two best Annual Trainings ever.

Both of these ATs that stand out in my mind were at Gowen Field, ID. They were slightly different, though. The first one was in the summer of 2011, right before I went to BOLC. It was my first AT with the CAV, and also my first AT away from aviation. It was only a 2 week annual training, so we spent a couple days convoying over to Gowen, spent a few days on Gowen proper, went to Orchard Combat Training Center (Gowen’s version of the middle east, which was spot on in terms of weather conditions and general suck).

After a 5 day operation in the field, we came back to Gowen proper and had a squadron-wide concert (the band wasn’t too notable, but that doesn’t matter). We convoyed back to home station, where I took my unit to a huge reservoir. We camped and hung out overnight, and came back in the next morning – where we were released from AT!

I think the reason it stands out to me so much is that it was my first AT as an officer, and my first real opportunity to do a convoy with my unit, and train with them. Aviation ATs are so different, that this experience really showed me what most of the Army actually does during AT.

The second AT that stands out was last summer, June 2013. The entire 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team went to Gowen Field for a month. We spent the 5 months prior to that training up for it, so every drill was extremely focused on this one AT. The reason? It was an XCTC (exportable combat training capability), which is a lot like JRTC or NTC rotations, just exported to the unit’s local training area.

At the time, the brigade was supposed to deploy into FY 2015, so everyone went to this AT. It was a lot of logistics, but it went really well. There were a lot more moving pieces to this AT than the one I just talked about. XCTC is what certifies units getting ready to deploy, towards the end of their ARFORGEN cycle, in accordance with First Army. In my opinion, doing it this way was much more preferred to having a really long pre-mob train up. Hopefully, our pre-mob will not be as long as normal this year.

I have had a lot of great ATs, but I feel like I learned the most at this last one. It got me pumped for the future, and it was great to see how well my squadron did. My husband’s troop got a lot of attention, because they did the first training mission in our brigade that involved air, water, and land operations. It took a lot of coordination to pull off, and the attention was very favorable.

Final Thoughts

My favorite AT was the longest, and the toughest as far as training went, but those are the training events that tend to stick with us the most. What was your favorite Army Annual Training? Leave a comment below to share your story.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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6 thoughts on “My Best Army National Guard Annual Training Ever”

  1. When we rise to the challenge and succeed it’s like nectar. Learning new skills, stretching the fringe of your capabilities, and surviving and thriving after the process gives us a natural sense of accomplishment. It kind of goes with that saying “that which does not kill me makes me stronger” – don’t you think?

  2. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen–LOL. In all actuality, I am just a bit jealous of you two. As you pointed out Candace, just before we dread moments such as these. When we look back on them, we realize that they were really somewhat enjoyable, and a great learning experience. I want to thank both of you for sharing these experiences with all of us.

  3. It always amazes me that the things in life that are the toughest, the longest and most grueling are the most satisfying. It just goes to show that we as humans get more from the most difficult situations we face. This was a great post Candace.I believe all of us should take a good look at this post and when we are in the midst of difficult situations, we must realize they will be some of our best education.

    1. Candace Ginestar

      It never feels like it at the time, though! Hindsight is always different. We usually dread things so much going into it, and then after we are done we say, oh that wasn’t so bad.

  4. Great post, Candace.

    My best annual training ever was when I was a Company Commander. Our unit went to Fort A.P. Hill, a huge training facility in Virginia.

    In addition to our support missions (Forward Support Company) we also did some awesome weapons ranges, logistical training, convoys and much more. Our mission was intense. We were busy, did lots of great training and even had some fun in the process.

    Our unit received high praise from the BN and BDE Commander.

    And on top of all that, the heat was out of this world! We were in a Heat Category 4 or 5 pretty much the entire time.


    1. Candace Ginestar

      Heat cat 4 or 5, sounds gross, but good training! I spent some time at Fort AP Hill, it was a good experience. I can believe it was that hot, there. I bet it was humid, too!

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