CHICAGO, IL (04/16/2012)(readMedia)-- Illinois Army National Guard leaders gathered for a reduced forces rehearsal (RFR) drill hosted by the 108th Sustainment Brigade (Sust. Bde.) April 13 at the North Kedzie Illinois Army National Guard armory in Chicago.
The RFR drill allowed units to discuss and plan training for the nearly 4,000 Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers attending annual training at the 2012 eXportable Combat Training Capability (XCTC) in July at Camp Ripley, Minn.
Participants included the 108th Sust. Bde. in Chicago and the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) in Urbana and select units from the 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade in Chicago and 65th Troop Command Brigade in Springfield, Joint Force Headquarters of the Illinois National Guard in Springfield and elements of the Wisconsin National Guard.
"The RFR is important because it allows us to physically view unit movements in the area which we are operating on a reduced scale," said Maj. Chris Heck of Chicago, with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 108th Sust. Bde. "We use 20 foot by 40 foot maps of the areas of operation and each unit is represented by a small icon."
Each type of unit has a distinctive symbol that represents it on the icons, said Heck. These icons are moved around on the map to represent the planned movement of the unit at designated times.
"This is certainly impressive to see when you first walk in," said Brig. Gen. Johnny Miller of Tammes, the deputy commanding general of the Illinois Army National Guard. "I know for this exercise people have put in a lot of work preparing for it and there has been progress from the last (RFR) in 2008."
RFRs improve our readiness by allowing units to execute missions in a simulated environment and evaluate training and operating plans, said Heck. The key aspect is it allows the 33rd and 108th along with other supporting elements to jointly coordinate the details of a training mission of this size.
"This in turn allows the leadership and staff to plan and execute realistic training that is safe, fiscally responsible, and still meets the commanders' intent," said Heck.
This will be the second time the Illinois National Guard has conducted an RFR drill and XCTC, with the last in 2008 to prepare the 33rd IBCT for its historic deployment to Afghanistan in 2008 to 2009. It was the largest single deployment of Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers since World War II.
The 2012 XCTC will focus training on both brigades training and operating in the mission essential tasks.
The 2012 XCTC RFR was in the planning process for nearly a year. The 108th took the lead on planning the event and will begin on its logistical support mission before 33rd Solders arrive to Camp Ripley.
"We started planning this RFR in August and we set out to organize a well developed a operational walk through of XCTC," said Lt. Col. Drew Dukett of Roodhouse, the acting commander of the 108th. "From the feedback I received from 108th and the 33rd, I'm confident every command team in attendance knows their unit's day-by-day mission and what will be required of them."
While none of the brigades are slated for a large scale overseas deployment, the XCTC allows leaders to ensure units are trained in the most up-to-date tactics and operating procedures. Both the 33rd and 108th are scheduled to attend training at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk, La., in 2013. XCTC and JRTC measure overall unit readiness against the Army Forces Generation cycle to ensure the 33rd and 108th are fully capable for any missions ordered by the president to support overseas operations.
XCTC provides a realistic, multi-level, combined arms training for combat and combat support units during an extended annual training period in order to help the brigades build on the Soldiers' individualized and small-team training.
With nearly 3,000 Soldiers from the 33rd and roughly 1,200 from the 108th to train in Minnesota, both units will focus on their wartime missions.
"The 108th has a very unique mission when it comes to sustainment operations and that mission will play a vital role in XCTC," said Dukett. "Our Soldiers will be providing the logistical support for both the 33rd and 108th. While this is no easy task, the 108th stands ready and will excel in its mission, training and readiness while at XCTC."
XCTC is the top readiness priority for the 33rd IBCT, said Col. Paul Hastings of St. Charles, the commander of the 33rd. It'll ensure high training down to unit levels and heightens tactical and operational proficiency.
"With that I know our Soldiers will be confident in themselves, their equipment and their leadership," said Hastings.