June 6, 2002, 14:59 EDT

2nd Battalion, 116th Infantry deploys for OPFOR mission

by Lt. Col. Chester C. Carter, III
Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Officer

(left to right) State Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Huffman, Maj. Gen. Claude Williams, and Brig. Gen. Long are briefed by Lt. Col. Virgil Gray at the 2nd Battalion, 116th Infantry Tactical Operations Center (Photo Courtesy of the Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office)

FORT STEWART, Ga. - Although out numbered and out gunned, the soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 116th Infantry were certainly not out fought by 53rd Infantry Brigade of the Florida Army National Guard as Maj Gen. Claude Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, learned during his recent visit to Fort Stewart. Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion traveled to Fort Stewart to provide Opposing Force (OPFOR) support for the 53rd Infantry Brigade. The training relation between the 116th Infantry and the 53rd supports the Brigade's high priority status.

According to National Guard Bureau sources, "The primary mission of the [15] enhanced separate brigade (eSB) is to deploy on short notice and destroy, capture, or repel enemy forces, using maneuver and shock effect. Armored and mechanized brigades are organized to fight successful engagements in conventional and various operations other than war (OOTW) activities. The eSBs first-to-fight status requires a higher state of readiness than many other large RC units. This applies particularly in terms of equipment and manning levels, so that the brigades can achieve full combat proficiency more quickly."

Even though the Old Dominion light fighters may not have had the resources available to them that the 53rd Brigade possessed, they had the "Spirit of Omaha." This fighting spirit, tactical proficiency and technical competency was evident in the Battalions Tactical Operations Center (TOC), as battle captains of the battalion managed the fight. The intensity of the battle was matched only by the heat and humidity endured by the soldiers. These battle captains were learning not only how to deploy soldiers and units across the battlefield but also how to manage the resources and weapon systems available to them to take the fight to the enemy.

2nd. Lt. Mathew French (left), platoon leader, 1710th Transportation Company briefs Major General Claude A. Williams (right), during General Williams' recent visit to the 1710th at Fort Stewart, Ga. (Photo Courtesy of the Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office)

According to Lt. Col. Charles W. Coxwell, Jr., commander of 2nd Battalion, 351st Infantry, the exercise was "continuous operations" rather than event driven. Coxwell explained this meant the commanders and soldiers of the 53rd Brigade and 2nd Battalion, 116th Infantry had to react to each other's tactics and actions rather than the exercise being driven by a set scenario written before the exercise began. Coxwell and his staff worked with the leadership of 2nd Battalion, 116th Infantry to make sure the training objectives of both the 53rd Brigade and the 2nd Battalion were being achieved during the annual training period.

When asked about the relationship of his unit to the 53rd Brigade and the 2nd Battalion, 116th Infantry, Coxwell explained that 2nd Battalion, 351st Infantry is an AC/RC unit stationed at Camp Blanding, Fla. There are 61 soldiers assigned to the unit and the mission of the unit is to exercise, train and evaluate Army National Guard and US Army Reserve units. The experience to meet this mission certainly appears to be in his unit when he said, "There are 61 soldiers assigned to my unit with over 1,000 years of experience.

Lt. Col. Virgil Gray, battalion commander of the 2nd Battalion seemed pleased with the way the annual training period was progressing when his unit was visited by Williams. When Williams asked him about training and if the battalion was progressing toward its objectives Gray said that he was very pleased. He indicated that Coxwell and the soldiers of the 351st had been very supportive and the exercise with the 53rd Brigade was productive.

In addition to the 2nd Battalion, 116th Infantry and platoon from 1710th Transportation Company, was also supporting the exercise. The Fort A. P. Hill unit was working with the 50th Area Support Group, another Florida Army National Guard unit, to provide light and medium truck transportation for the exercise.

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