June 26, 2002, 16:23 EDT

1st Brigade conducts annual training

by Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia National Guard Deputy Public Affairs Officer

Soldiers from Company B, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment conduct small boat operations training during 1st Brigade's Annual Training conducted at Fort A.P. Hill. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office)

Despite having reduced attendance due to extensive deployments, OPFOR support and Homeland security missions, the annual training period for 1st Brigade, 29th Infantry Division was one of the "best ATs they had been to in years".

According to Lt. Col. David G. Wrenn, the acting brigade commander, a large number of soldiers from the brigade were not present for the training period conducted at Fort A. P. Hill because they had just returned from the 29th Division's deployment to Bosnia and were not required to attend. Also, many brigade soldiers were assigned to airport security missions throughout the Commonwealth. The brigade's second battalion deployed a few weeks before the AT period to provide OPFOR support for the 53rd Separate Infantry Brigade at Fort Stewart, Ga.

The training conducted during the two weeks was seen as excellent by the soldiers of the brigade. "Comments from the soldiers were that this was the best AT they had been to in years," said Command Sgt. Maj. Gary Webb, the brigade command sergeant major. The quality of the training had a direct impact on our soldiers' decisions to stay in the Guard, and soldiers were conducting their reenlistments aboard helicopters in mid-flight and in the middle of a pond during small boat operations training, he said.

The brigade's focus was on individual and squad level training, said Maj. S. B. "Colt" Puryear, the brigade operations officer. Some of the diverse training conducted were squad level situational training lanes for reacting to contact and taking out a bunker, small boat operations, hand grenade training, and squad-level live fire exercises, he said.

Another highlight of training period was the consolidation of the brigade's mortars to capitalize on the collective expertise throughout the brigade. Puryear said that normally the 60mm mortars are located in the line infantry companies, and the 81mm mortars are in the battalions, but they all trained together this AT. The mortar training culminated in live fire exercises, including firing in full NBC protective gear.

Besides the infantry, other units in the brigade had great training opportunities. "The 429th forward support battalion was able to conduct a great deal of sling load training with the 224th Aviation," Wrenn said. "It really allowed for the 429th to show its muscle and it capabilities to deploy logistically." Soldiers from the 299th Engineers also provided support to the infantry and FSB in hardening positions allowing them to practice some doctrinal defensive techniques, he added.

Wrenn said the brigade also conducted brigade-level staff CPX was conducted with support of the 29th division rear operations cell. "We worked on information flow techniques in the brigade level command posts and tried to work on methods of improving them" he said. The brigade leadership had identifies some weakness during recent exercises and DROC provided the high HQ simulations that would have been missing otherwise, Wrenn said.

The brigade also conducted a family day during the middle of the AT period to allow family members the chance to visit their spouses and view displays and demonstrations. The brigade even chartered a bus from the Winchester area to facilitate family members getting to Fort A. P. Hill.

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