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.
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.