Tag Archives: WyoGuard

WYARNG prepares for changes to physical fitness testing

U.S. Army units across the world are preparing for changes to physical fitness testing, and Wyoming Army National Guard senior leaders discussed and practiced the new evaluation during an Oct. 13, 14 conference and training exercise in Cheyenne.

The current Army Physical Fitness Test consists of three events: pushups, situps, and a two-mile run. The new Army Combat Fitness Test, scheduled to replace the APFT in October 2020, contains six events, all geared towards analyzing a soldier’s ability to meet the physical challenges often met in combat situations.

The ACFT is currently undergoing a pilot program in 60 National Guard battalions in six states, according to Nevada National Guardsman Sgt. Maj. Michael Spaulding, the senior enlisted advisor to the deputy commanding general at the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, who spoke at the meeting regarding the upcoming modifications to fitness testing.

He said an exact timeline of how it will be introduced to current and incoming soldiers is still under discussion.

“We are going to pull that data and see what it is that gives us the best indicator of overall readiness,” Spaulding said.

He added, for half of these groups, soldiers are required to meet physical standards based on their overall unit requirements. The other half is tested to meet standards based on their individual military occupational specialty.

“I think for us, we go about our business by getting ready,” Maj. Gen. Luke, Wyoming National Guard adjutant general said, “keep these questions in the back of our minds, and remember that there are other states out there testing this.”

Meanwhile, the WyARNG is proactively preparing for the new test and has recently trained and hired a master fitness trainer, Staff Sgt. Kari J. Brafford, who emphasized the importance of embracing the changes during a Sunday morning showcase of the ACFT for the state’s senior leaders, at which, they performed the six-event test.

“Please remain positive and proactive during this transition,” she said. “Change is always scary, but it is doable. It is important because we want the soldier to go do what we need done in combat, and come back strong and healthy.”

Although it will take time to fully integrate the new evaluation plan, Brafford intends to provide units and their soldiers with resources to start preparing.

She said she will start pushing out the top three exercises that will help soldiers prepare for the six events so that units may start incorporating them into their unit training assemblies and soldiers can build them into their individual workouts.

Brafford encourages soldiers to figure out where their weaknesses may be with the ACFT and focus on strengthening them.

“Soldiers should start working on their weaknesses now so when we transition, we are a year or two ahead because we have been incorporating those workouts.”

Although exercise is an important role in preparing for the new evaluation, Brafford expressed that nutrition and rest are just as vital to being physically fit.

“It’s all about rest, nutrition and activity,” said Brafford. “What you feed your body is almost more important than the actual activity and then allowing your body rest.”

Spaulding said the scoring system for the new test, which requires soldiers to meet a minimum score requirement, will eliminate the advantage that high scores gave soldiers in the past. Soldiers will now be scored “pass or fail.”

“If we use that to assess promotion ability, two soldiers that met the minimum standards regardless of gender or age probably should both be equally considered,” he said.

Brafford encouraged servicemembers to reach out to her for individual physical fitness and nutrition guidance at any time. She can be reached at (307) 772-5162. She is also implementing “Fitness Fridays” on WyARNG social media accounts, Facebook and Twitter with advice and information that can be utilized to stay proactive.

WyARNG set for largest deployment in 10 years

About 300 soldiers from six Wyoming Army National Guard units are set to deploy throughout next year and efforts are already underway to ensure soldiers, their families and their employers have the support they need before, during and after mobilization.

It’s been almost a decade since Wyoming sent about 700 soldiers overseas. The brigade-sized element was augmented by guardsmen from five other states, most of whom performed non-routine jobs such as convoy support into Iraq, or mayor cell duties on the various military bases in Kuwait.

According to Lt. Col. Charles Thompson, the state’s mobilization readiness officer, the plan, so far, is for all the units to deploy to the Central Command area of responsibility.

“That could be Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan or United Arab Emirates,” said Thompson. “The units are set to perform their standard missions.”

The Wyoming Military Department’s Service Member, Family, Employer, Readiness Support Team, or S-FERST, offers 14 programs to Guard members and those who support them and has been ramping up for this cycle of deployments since February.

“It’s like a buffet of services you can pick and choose from,” said S-FERST Director Bill Breckenridge. “Some will never use any of them, but some will use them all.”

Among the menu items are personal financial counselors, psychological services, employer support, substance abuse counseling and a child and youth program, to name a few.

In addition to the main offices in Cheyenne, S-FERST has five regional Family Assistance Centers around the state that provide a link for families, service members and veterans, in or near their communities.

“Most of our soldiers are dispersed around the state,” Breckenridge said. “A lot of the aviators are in the southeast area, but the battalions are all over.”

Thompson said the soldiers from the units set to head out the door do cover a lot of Wyoming’s open spaces.

“The 2-300 minus, is the largest group. They are primarily out of Casper, Gillette and Lander,” Thompson said. “We have volunteers who are reclassifying to fill some vacancies also, so it will be pretty spread out.”

As operations have evolved for the WyARNG over the last decade, so have S-FERST services and procedures. According to Breckenridge, the last large scale deployment effort, and several smaller ones since, provided good lessons for him and his staff.

Most important, he said, is getting involved at Soldier Readiness Processing, or the annual administrative and medical drill all Army Guardsmen are required to attend, whether deploying or not.

“Being there allows us to update the Family Intake Sheets and to interact with the soldiers a year out,” Breckenridge said. “We’re mindful that the definition of family has changed over the years and we have more blended families and single parent families. Sometimes it will be the soldier’s mom or dad or another service member taking care of a child.”

State Family Assistance Coordinator Emily Study said getting the SRP data early in the mobilization process is important for a number of reasons.

“We want to be able to contact the families or the primary caregivers at least 90 days out and to ensure we have the best way to contact them. Some prefer email or text, and so we can get that information, and start communicating with them at 90, 60 days out and not be scrambling at the last minute,” Study said.

Soldiers need to be focused on the mission while deployed, and having things in order at home is crucial to that end. That includes knowing their job is secure. Employers may have concerns too, and S-FERST and the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve are there to support them as well.

“During that 2009 deployment, we had six county sheriffs from one department deploy,” Breckenridge said. “You can’t just put out a help wanted ad for something like that. It was key that ESGR and the adjutant general had dialog well in advance and we were able to arrange for getting help from other law enforcement agencies to fill in. There is a lot more advance training now too, but we haven’t had any trouble yet.”

The assistant adjutant general plans to unveil further employer support strategies next month.

Arkansas Army Guard working on the railroad at Guernsey

An Arkansas Army National Guard field artillery brigade, augmented by units from other states, is making tracks to Camp Guernsey’s North Training Area for a large-scale training exercise.

Transporting military equipment is often the duty of a specialized transportation unit, or contractors, but for Western Strike participants, it is the main focus of the brigade’s three-week training exercise, according to 1st Lt. Timothy Jones, a field artillery officer assigned to Arkansas’ 142nd Field Artillery Brigade.

He and hundreds of other artillerymen from Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama spent most of a week at the Burlington Northern Santa Fe LLC railyard in Guernsey. There they unloaded various artillery systems, trucks, Humvees, ambulances and other vehicles from five trains, hauling 360 cars, making it the largest such operation at the facility.

Jones said the brigade is training to simulate an emergency deployment, which they haven’t done in more than two decades. A major objective for the brigade is to move its own equipment and deploy it in an unfamiliar location.

“When Operation Desert Storm happened, everyone had to move their equipment and get it shipped overseas. After that, units started falling in on equipment that was already staged in theater,” he explained. “So we’re relearning how to do this, and really at the crawl stage of the crawl, walk, run training cycle.

“Loading, staging and deploying the equipment is the main focus of this exercise. We will certify our fire tables and all that when we get out to the field, but really we can do that at any training facility, this is the important part, to be able to mobilize anywhere, anytime.”

Alabama Army National Guard Spc. Lonnie Crawford, an artilleryman with the 1/117th Field Artillery Brigade, was in the same shoes as many of the red legs working in the mud and rain in the railyard.

“I’ve never done this before,” Crawford said of his current duty and his previous one at Anniston Army Depot in Alabama, where he and his colleagues loaded the train cars bound for Wyoming. “We didn’t train for this, we just kinda learned as we went along.”

“It’s a little nerve-wracking moving your sergeant’s truck for him,” Crawford added, with a grin, “You don’t want it to fall off.”

His crew mate, and a fellow cannon crewmember, Spc. James Westbrook, said he’s feeling good about his unit’s capabilities.

“We’ve moved our stuff in the air, and on the ground and now by train; we are fully capable now to go anywhere,” he said.

Once the vehicles were moved off the train cars, they were staged nearby, and are awaiting a surge of soldiers that will be driving them to the training areas, to do with them, what they are meant to do. The main body arrived June 1.

Col. Joseph Huss, Camp Guernsey commander, visited with some of the Southern visitors in the railyard. They were unconcerned about doing a hard job they hadn’t been trained for, in less than ideal conditions. Actually, most said they were glad to get away from the heat and humidity back home.

Camp Guernsey turns 80 this year (Part one)

After years of training in poor conditions at Pole Mountain, the Wyoming National Guard decided to establish a temporary training camp at Guernsey and in June of 1938, accommodated its first of 80 “summer camps” at what is now an internationally known military training facility.
The Pole Mountain Camp, between Laramie and Cheyenne, was established in 1924 as a temporary National Guard camp, but the War Department would not fund the state for permanent improvements as it was deemed unsuitable for year-round and mobilization training.
Armed with the federal regulations and a desire to train his troops in proper conditions, Wyoming Adjutant General, Col. Rhodolph L. Esmay began lobbying the state government in 1931 to find a suitable location.
Seven years later, and a year prior to construction of any permanent buildings, a deal was worked out to surrender the Pole Mountain property in exchange for about 120 acres of state-owned land at Guernsey.
The site was attractive for its lower and warmer altitude, hilly terrain, abundant water supply, ample building materials, large areas of adjacent state-owned land and its proximity to a major railroad line. The Guard leased the area for the first camp, but already had its sights set on building it into a permanent post.
Esmay reported in April 1938, that an appropriations bill, sponsored by the War Department, was before Congress asking for $500,000 to begin construction of permanent facilities at the camp.
Meanwhile, Guard troops, under the supervision of Maj. C.G. Carroll, Quartermaster Corps and United States Property and Disbursing Officer, started building temporary facilities in preparation for the June encampment, and, as reported in the May 27 Guernsey Gazette, “had reached a point they could see over the hump. The electric light line is completed and the water system is finished.”
Long before operations security became a mantra for the military, troop movements and training schedules were available for all to see in the June 10 Gazette. “Cavalry horses will arrive today. Already some of the troop horses are here and the remainder will be on the picket line tonight. Tomorrow troops will arrive from various parts of the state. The first train will arrive Saturday morning at 8 o’clock; another at 1:50 P.M. another at 3:30 and another at 4:45.”
Some reports claimed there were upwards of 7,000 troops from other states and active units that joined the 620 Wyoming National Guard troops for mock battles during the two-week training period.
Under the command of Wyoming Gov. Leslie A. Miller, and Esmay, 31 soldiers comprised the state staff and state detachment. The staff, commanded by Carroll, included a medical officer, cavalry commanders from Laramie, Sheridan, Douglas, and Cheyenne, and a judge advocate general from Lovell. Five sergeants, four corporals and 13 privates made up the enlisted corps.
The 24th Cavalry Division and 58th Cavalry Brigade rounded out the staff with four officers, led by Col. Burke Sinclair, of Laramie.
Esmay commanded the 115th Cavalry, which was broken up into three squadrons. Troop A, from Lovell, and Troop B, from Sheridan, made up the 1st Squadron. The second included Troop E, from Torrington, and Troop F, from Laramie. The third was Troop I, from Lander. Most of the troops were led by two or three commissioned officers, and a dozen or so noncommissioned officers. The troops were rounded out with an average of 40 privates.
The troops arrived on camp June 11, and bivouacked in the area between the North Platte River and what is now the main cantonment where the Simulation Center and motor pools are today.
“The Cavalry is Camped at Guernsey,” read the headline in that week’s Gazette.
“For the first time in nearly half a century, cavalry troops are again silhouetted against the skyline on the hills near Old Fort Laramie,” the writer reported. “Riding the trails and traversing the terrain where so many years ago the cavalry carved its way while the nearby hills resounded to the warring beat of tom-toms.”
Editor’s note: Thanks to the Guernsey Gazette, Wyoming State Museum, University of Wyoming and Wikipedia for the use of materials used in this story. To retain the prevailing journalistic style, quotes used from the Guernsey Gazette are kept intact, however non-compliant they may be with Associated Press style.