Guam’s elite infantrymen returned recently from the 2016 xPortable Combat Training Capability (XCTC) exercise, a field-environment training regime that united them with National Guardsmen from Hawaii, Arizona, Washington and California. The XCTC placed participants in simulated combat scenarios, testing their proficiencies at various leadership levels. This, too, was a test on the 294th’s command — the Hawaii Army National Guard’s 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) — that led the exercise.
“The biggest challenge is the geographic dispersion of the brigade,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Bret D. Moore, 29th’s operations sergeant major. “We’re spread out all over the Hawaiian Islands. We got a unit in Guam, we got a unit in Arizona. The challenge is syncing everybody on the same schedule, getting the same information … understanding how that’s going to all flow together, to make sure everybody’s synchronized, that’s one of the biggest challenges. Just getting a meeting of the minds with everybody with the dispersion that we have throughout the brigade (is our goal).”
The event marked Guam’s first return to Camp Roberts since 2012. The 294th came to this California National Guard training facility twice as a stepping stone to a historic Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) deployment in 2013. Similarly, more than 500 Chamorro warriors utilized Camp Roberts’ vast ranges and training lanes for OEF validity.
“This time we’re here for XCTC, to validate our platoons,” said Lt. Col. Romeo Delfin, 294th commander. “It’s a big opportunity for us because this is the first time the 294th deploys with the 29th IBCT as our higher headquarters.”
Four 294th line units — Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta companies — took the XCTC challenge, along with members from Guam’s Headquarters-Headquarters Company. Guam’s Hulu Company served as a support unit, rounding out Guam’s overall roster.
“There are a lot of building blocks, a lot of things we have to piece together since the battalion returned from Afghanistan in 2014,” Delfin added. “This is our first time interacting in the field with our (29th IBCT) brigade. There are always going to be challenges, but at the end of the day, relationships are going to get better.”
XCTC provided Guam Soldiers a chance to utilize skills they haven’t mastered in quite some time, according to Command Sgt. Maj. Ken M. Cruz, 294th command sergeant major. Fire support teams (FIST), scouts, mounted vehicle gunners, forward observers, and mortar gunners, to name a few, were able to train in their specific fields as oppose to other roles in previous missions.
“Since 2003 we’ve been actively deploying Soldiers but they mostly haven’t been doing what they initially were trained to do,” Cruz said. “In this (XCTC), all we want is for them to learn the basics again. Take all the experience they have and throw them to the side. Teach each other the basics again.”
The 29th set the training pace, and Camp Roberts provided tough obstacles with its unforgiving hills, dusty terrain and dry weather that gored all participants with high 90-degree temperature. “Infantry conditions,” said a Guam warrior. “These are just things we need to adapt to. You never know where we’ll end up fighting an enemy. It can’t always be near an air conditioner.”
Per the U.S. Army’s website, XCTC “provide tough, realistic training for every participating Soldier and the means to achieve the required company level certification and battalion battle staff proficiency for (Army National Guard) units during pre-mobilization training.”
“Basically, if you were a civilian, this is like your final exam prior to graduating from college,” Moore explained. “What we’re doing is getting evaluated to make sure we’re proficient on our mission essential tasks that the government will call on us for in case of war or any other type of contingency we need to operate under. This is just a validation to say Yes, we are good at what were suppose to be doing. We can meet the demands and requirements that our higher headquarters will place on us.”