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Understanding AC/RC Assignments.
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Many of us, officers and enlisted, find ourselves repeating those or similar phrases. Too often we allow rumors of the past to determine our views on various assignment positions instead of conducting our own research. After serving for more than a year as a company commander in 1st Battalion (Training Support) (Engineer), 395th Regiment, at Fort Hood, Texas, I have a better understanding of what it means to be in an AC/RC job and how important this assignment is to the Corps of Engineers as well as to the Army. The purpose of this article is to help you to better understand AC/RC assignments.
During the Gulf War, the Army had difficulties deploying the National Guard's "round-out brigades" and high-priority combat-arms units. The old methods and criteria of reporting readiness showed that the units were combat ready. However, when they arrived at their mobilization stations, their readiness reports were dismissed and the units were put through an extensive train-up period that included a National Training Center rotation. The entire mobilization and train-up process revealed numerous problems with the units' readiness, how readiness was tracked and reported, and how the AC interacted with the RC. There had to be a better way.
These experiences led Congress to push for a new system of training and evaluating RC units. In 1992 and 1993, Congress developed the Ground Forces Readiness Enhancement program, which dedicates extensive personnel and material resources to ensure that RC units are trained and ready for deployment. Congress directed realignment of the AC support to the RC with a focus on selected high-priority RC units. The Ground Forces Readiness Enhancement legislation resulted in the dedication of 5,000 experienced AC soldiers to train and evaluate RC units.
In the Engineer Regiment, this is an extremely vital mission, because 76 percent of the regiment is in the National Guard or Army Reserves. The corps-level units that all divisional engineers depend on for support reside in the RC and deploy with us when we fight. To train these units, there are six engineer training support battalions that work directly with combat engineer and bridge units. These battalions are devoted to helping engineer units reach and maintain combat readiness. (Note: Combat heavy, topographic, and other "noncombat" engineers receive similar support from combat-service-support training-support battalions that are manned by Army Reserve soldiers with only a few active-duty team members.) The combat engineer training-support battalions are located throughout the United States (Fort Hood, Fort Lewis, Fort Carson, Fort Knox, Fort Meade, and Fort Jackson) and train all of the priority RC engineer units.
In addition to the six engineer training-support battalions, there are resident trainers, AC officers, and NCOs who live and work with selected priority units every day. The focus of these teams ranges from individual and crew-level training to mentoring NCOs and officers at the company and staff levels on training management. The majority of these resident teams are in the 15 enhanced separate brigades of the National Guard and force-support-package Army Reserve battalions. Together, the training-support battalion and resident team help the RC commander achieve his readiness goals.
The 1st Battalion's mission is to teach, coach, and mentor combat engineer RC units. We do this through a variety of training events that culminate in combined-arms lanes-training exercises that are as close to a combat-training-center experience as we can replicate. To set units up for success at these events, we transport mobile training teams to unit drill locations to teach tactical skills and to certify unit leaders on critical tasks. We also conduct a weekend or an inactive-duty training (IDT) lanes exercise where we take the unit through the crawl-and-walk phases of the lanes-training process. This combination of teaching and assessing led to the title of "observer-controller/trainers (OC/Ts)," which captures the flow of our training year with the unit as well as our focus.
In the training-support battalions, we are all OC/Ts. We teach units their mission-essential tasks, conduct crawl-and-walk lanes during IDT, and then assume the full OC role during their annual training (AT) rotations. Mobile training teams focus on train-the-trainer sessions. This method reinforces the units' chain of command by allowing them to teach their soldiers the tasks instead of having the OC/Ts do it. We instruct company and platoon leaders in doctrine or specific mission-training-plan tasks. At times, mobile training teams may also generate some individual or crew-level training on systems such as the MK19, Volcano, Modular Pack Mine System, and armored vehicle-launched bridge. While these systems have been in the AC inventory for years, many RC units are just now receiving them. Mobile training teams normally consist of two or three soldiers who go to a unit and provide instruction--usually in a classroom environment.
IDT is geared to collective-task lanes training, which focuses on the sapper platoon and takes the unit from the concept-of-the-mission training team to at least the crawl-and-walk phase. A normal IDT lasts two days, from 0800 Saturday to 1600 Sunday.
AT is the premier training event of the year, and everything we do is geared toward this training. Ideally, this is where we bring it all together in a combined-arms exercise. Each OC/T covers a platoon, and the NCOIC and commander cover the company headquarters. Normally, the operations tempo allows OC/Ts to rotate out of the field every third day for resupply runs.
After every IDT and AT, we produce a take-home packet, which is our primary written feedback mechanism to the units we assess. These packets are very high-quality, automated products that include-
* A cover letter from the commander.
* Platoon- and company-level training and evaluation outlines with comments and recommendations for training.
* A company summary for the entire training period that lists strengths and areas in need of improvement.
* A Training Assessment Models report.
OC/Ts can expect to spend more than 100 days each year on temporary duty or in the field, mostly between March and July, for IDT lanes and AT. More than half of the 100 days are limited field time. The remainder of the year is similar to that of any unit in garrison.
Engineer training-support battalions normally have three companies--each commanded by a branch-qualified senior captain (their second command) and five seasoned NCOs (all with successful squad-leader and platoon-sergeant time). The NCOIC's duties are similar to those of a first sergeant. Every soldier in AC/RC assignments brings a wealth of knowledge.
OC/Ts are picked based on their performance and experiences and go through a series of classes and testing before being certified. In our brigade, the certification process is a five-phase program that is monitored and tracked annually. In addition, we certify each OC/T on an extensive list of combat-engineer skills, to include using modernized demolition initiators and live mines. The final phase of our battalion's OC/T training is a "right seat" rotation at either the Joint Readiness Training Center or the National Training Center.
An AC/RC assignment can be challenging and demanding. We operate on the basis of sound doctrine and tactical and technical proficiency. In addition, one must have superior communication skills to teach, coach, and mentor leaders at the platoon level and higher. If you are looking for a rewarding, fast-paced, engineer-specific, doctrine-driven experience, look no further. Continue to make a difference in the future of engineer soldiers. Accept an AC/RC assignment and help achieve the One Army, One Standard goal.
Major Cummins-Lefler is an observer-controller/trainer (OC/T) for C Company, 1st Battalion (TS) (Engineer), 395th Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas. Previous assignments include PERSCOM, DA Secretariat Recorder, Alexandria, Virginia; and Commander, A Company, 35th Engineer Battalion, OSUT, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. A graduate of Howard University Washington, D.C., MAJ Cummins-Lefler has been selected for CGSC.
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