Story by LTC Angela Wallace on 03/31/2018FORT McCOY, Wis. -- They are the unsung heroes of the exercise and training world. They come together days before their mission commences, and the work they do and the synergy they achieve in short order allows the Medical Readiness and Training Command Observer Coach/Trainers to hone their craft in time for the big game.
Observer Coach/Trainers are the behind-the-scenes experts who provide commanders at all levels with focused and qualitative feedback on the success of their previous years' collective training efforts. This external look at each unit's internal mission execution captures the individual and team responses to purposefully selected injects planned months in advance of the field training exercise.
Lt. Gen. Charles Luckey, U.S. Army Reserve Command commanding general, recently lauded the broadening opportunities an OC/T assignment provides at any one of the various Army Reserve training commands. Luckey, in talking to his senior commanders at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, explained the benefits and growth that comes from a Soldier participating in an exercise in an exercise control capacity. These training and observation roles allow Soldiers to learn new skills and then return to their assigned units better prepared to plan and conduct training, planning and evaluation tasks.
Capt. Angel Jones, assigned to MRTC's 1st Medical Training Brigade, found her role at Regional Medic as an OC/T very rewarding.
"To be able to share my years of doctrinal knowledge of the Multi-functional Medical Battalion with the training audience and my fellow OC/Ts, and see them have ah ha' moments is priceless. I would refer them to the appropriate references, and when I came back, they had acted on it and were excited to share what they had found," said Jones.
Jones served as the Force Health Protection Officer and Executive Officer with the 439th MMB for over four years. Since joining the MRTC team, she has grown in her new assignment as an exercise control chief. In her civilian life, Jones is a healthcare corporate compliance auditor who ensures compliance with rules and regulations regarding Medicare, Medicaid and Tri-Care to protect the healthcare system. "Exercises like Regional Medic are relaxing for me," says Jones, who has been recognized by her team as one of the hardest working and committed Soldiers they serve with.
Medical scenarios for the exercise are constructed with the help of General Dynamics Information Technology team, in support of MRTC, based on the unit's mission essential tasks, as well as the unit commander's collective training objectives. Observations are captured according to a finely choreographed schedule of events to include the number and type of patients generated from the joint medical planners toolkit. This year, for the Bridge Combat Support Training Exercise Regional Medic 78-18-03, the OC/Ts observed the MET utilizing the Training and Evaluation Outline and Objective-Training matrix, and assessed the proficiency of the task execution to standard, annotating the overall proficiency rating of the MET.
Once their observations are captured, the OC/Ts enter their findings into Joint Lessons Learned Information System, or JLLIS, which is the approved Department of Defense system-of-record database. Observations are then routed and processed through MRTC's management cells for review and quality control, validated, and published for the units to later view and learn from for future planning of training and mission execution.
This year, during Regional Medic at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, OC/Ts assigned to or augmenting the Medical Readiness and Training Command logged in over 100 observations during the two-week exercise, which included quality assessments of medical Mission Command, Force Health Protection, and Health Service Support. MRTC also provided units with a complete take home package before departing back to their home stations. The take home package includes all observations, personnel data, mid and final AARs, post assessments, a cover letter, a final exercise report, and any other additional documentation such as storyboards and pictures are digitally captured in JLLIS, providing tangible evidence of a unit's performance, permanent repository for documents, and eliminating the 60 day turn-around time for a take home package to units.
MRTC is a unique and talented force multiplier, and it is a team that truly has no equal. MRTC provides the only opportunity for combined and joint medical organizations and individuals to come together and be exercised, tested and evaluated under a certified umbrella of resources. It harnesses the experience and expertise of, not only its own members but also those in the operational force, and couples those assets with an exercise environment that injects current real-world, operational challenges for units to negotiate while refining internal processes.
These real-world scenarios serve as opportunities for units to implement and test their collective standard operating procedures and tactics, techniques and procedures as well as their individual command and staff knowledge and abilities in Mission Command, mission analysis, Force Health Protection, and Health Service Support doctrine.
Despite its name, what MRTC really does is prepares joint, multi-component and international partners to succeed at their wartime health service support or force health protection missions. Being ready is good but being prepared is better. MRTC provides interoperability training opportunities as well as a rigorous exercise control capability that allows America's medical forces to test and hone their individual and collective sustainment mission. Knowing that they have the best medical care available on the battlefield allows our joint force and partners the confidence they need to win America's wars.
Another OC/T supporting Regional Medic, Staff Sgt. David Koston, assigned to the 7303rd Medical Training Support Battalion, shared why he enjoys his role in the mission. "I get to see the Soldiers progress in their learning and teamwork," said Koston.
When not serving in uniform, Koston works for the Integrated Disability Evaluation System as a Physical Evaluation Board Liaison Officer which he finds equally rewarding, but stressful. Though not required, Koston and many other OC/Ts also completed the 43 warrior tasks and battle drills the training audience completed before the beginning of the field training exercise. He appreciated the opportunity to test his basic Soldiering skills, especially having grown up under the wing of an airborne infantry father.
Since 2012, he has contributed to the external evaluations at over 10 exercises while providing feedback as a Patient Administration Specialist. He has previously provided observations for the battalion, combat support hospital and brigade level which included work on several defense support to civil authorities missions. Despite the extended length of the Regional Medic exercise, Koston is looking forward to heading to Guardian Response in a month to do it again.
"If my efforts reach out to at least one Soldier, and they go to war a little more prepared, it was worth it," Koston said.
Col. Steven Sanson, a chief OC/T assigned to MRTC's 1st Medical Training Brigade, believes in an obligation to ensure world-class medical care for Soldiers on the battlefield and finds this role allows him the best opportunity to do that. Having served as a senior OC/T at Guardian Response last year, Sanson admits that he is still learning and finding more effective ways to allow the training audience to see themselves and improve their craft. "I understand that we need to use these valuable training days wisely for the units in the field and we need to help reduce their post-mobilization days if and when they are mobilized for deployment.
"This Regional Medic experience added so much more to the tool kit. This is a team sport in that we leverage the experiences of those that have done this before. Everyone needs to know the operational side as well as the training side. The team concept makes being a senior OC/T role easier," said Sanson.
Like Koston, Sanson is also eager to assist with the Guardian Response exercise control mission in April at the Muscatatuck Unban Training Center near Butterville, Indiana.
Combat Support Training Exercise's like Regional Medic and Guardian Response ensure America's Army Reserve units and Soldiers are trained and ready to deploy on short-notice to bring capable, combat-ready resources in support of the Army and our joint partners anywhere in the world.
Article written by By Brig. Gen. Lisa Doumont, commanding general, Medical Readiness and Training Command
Contributions made by Ms. Juanita Krueger, Joint Lessons Learned Information System Administrator