81st SBCT wraps up xCTC rotation, planning for National Training Center
For three weeks, more than 2,600 members of the 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team pushed themselves through long days, hot temperatures, high winds and one of the fastest paced training exercises in the Army National Guard.
By many accounts, Bayonet Focus, the 81st SBCT’s eXportable Combat Training Capability (XCTC) rotation, was a success, preparing Washington’s largest brigade for next year’s National Training Center rotation.
“It takes a village to raise a Brigade Combat Team,” said Col. Shaughnessy Hodge, commander of the 81st SBCT. “We are very appreciative of your families, employers, friends, loved ones, co-workers and all they sacrifice. We also are appreciative of your sacrifice and know you have put a lot into the Guard and we can’t say thank you enough.”
Since transformation of the 81st Brigade from a heavy armor to light wheeled Stryker brigade in 2016, the unit has conducted some of the most in-depth and comprehensive training the Army has to offer, all with the goal of being ready to send the unit overseas.
The XCTC was one step closer to that goal. The Army National Guard’s XCTC program is an instrumented brigade field training exercise designed to certify Platoon proficiency in coordination with First Army by providing an experience similar to a Combat Training Center.
“This was our first time in a long time we had the entire brigade together, training together, working together; 2,600 soldiers, 22 platoons, 43 live fire exercises, countless hours of training events,” said Hodge.
The next step for the 81st Brigade is a combat training center rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. These rotations incorporate a complex scenario design incorporating social, ethical and moral dilemmas; the goal of which is to develop leaders while exposing them to multifaceted problems they could face while deployed.
“We have 19 training days till we go to NTC,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Alfonso Cadena, Command Sgt. Maj. for the 81st SBCT. “We need to communicate, rehearse, train and prepare. This needs to be muscle memory when we get there.”
The 81st SBCT is scheduled to attend NTC in the spring of 2020, with the potential of a mobilization to Poland after completion. Col. Hodge and brigade leaders know it is a team effort to get there and be successful.
“We set out to reach a certain training objective; I think we reached that through this very valuable training,” Hodge said. “We attacked every mission essential task, trained on them and are right where we want to be.”