[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                  February 11, 2011

Observer-controller-trainer course streamlined

Story & photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hudson, 91st Training Brigade Public Affairs Office

FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. — A new, streamlined, Observer-Controller-Trainer (OCT) course is under way in the Army Reserve. The mission of an OCT is to observe units during training exercises, to control the training unit’s environment and to provide feedback during the after-action review (AAR).

There still are several OCT courses of various lengths provided by units and academies throughout the country.

PHOTO: An OCT instructor, Sgt. 1st Class Damion Tassler of the 86th Training Division at Fort McCoy, observes students preparing to conduct an after-action review during the field portion of their training. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hudson
An OCT instructor, Sgt. 1st Class Damion Tassler of the 86th Training Division at Fort McCoy, observes students preparing to conduct an after-action review during the field portion of their training. Ensuring students understand the process and their role in it is a part of the OCT course.

Currently, the proponent for this course is the 84th Training Command, whose subordinate training divisions have joined forces to assist with the development of this course and provide the instructors to teach it, said Sgt. 1st Class Damion Tassler, an OCT instructor assigned to the Fort McCoy, Wis.,-based 86th Training Division.

The course was developed through the collaboration of several military organizations with the intent of lessening the impact this type of course can have on time and resources, and to standardize the instruction given to OCT students.

“Right now it’s the 78th, 91st, and 86th (Training Divisions) all working under the umbrella of the 84th Training Command standardizing ours, and then, hopefully what will happen is, this will be a convenient plug-n-play other units can utilize, and then they could all teach a standardized course,” Tassler said. OCT courses are held at Fort McCoy.

“I think it has, so far, been a great example for units to follow; the development of it has been a good melding of many divisions all together at one time in one place. It’s been a very good collaboration, and, I think that as we move forward, the OCT Academy is going to snowball,” he said.

Many of the newly qualified OCTs from these courses will be participating in exercises this summer: Warrior Exercise (WAREX) and the Combat Support Training Exercise (CSTX), conducted at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., and Fort McCoy, Wis., Tassler said.

Some OCT courses are more than two weeks in length. While they do provide good training, many Soldiers are not able to attend due to other mission requirements and the cost involved, Tassler said. At only five days in length, the new course provides more Soldiers the opportunity to attend while also lessening the impact on other missions and unit training funds.

The new course features mobile team trainers, so it can be held at a location convenient to the personnel who need it, he said.
Many of the subjects taught in the longer courses are included in this five-day course. But to streamline the course, some subjects that aren’t OCT-specific were removed, Tassler said.

“We took out a lot of the basic Soldier tasks that we don’t feel need to be taught in an OCT class, and we are trying to focus on the after-action review (AAR) process. For instance, they had two or three days of first aid,” Tassler said. “That’s a basic Soldier task that can go to Combat Lifesaver if the unit determines that that OCT needs to be Combat Lifesaver qualified.”

“The AAR will be the same if you’re observing a training event from a division-level staff or if you’re observing three guys running down a dirt lane. The process is what we’re trying to get through, the ability for those OCTs to intelligently speak in front of a group and facilitate the unit’s feedback so they can take ownership in their training,” he added.

The Mobile Training Team has nine instructors from the aforementioned training divisions and one master instructor. The team can travel to different sites throughout the year and teach units in five days on location, so the units they train don’t have to worry about the travel expense and taking as much as two weeks of their Soldiers’ annual training time for the year.

“We’ve brought all of these instructors together to form a solid team to conduct all the OCT training for fiscal year 2011,” said Sgt. Maj. James A. Vogel, OCT course manager, 84th Training Command.

“The instructors on the ground are doing a fantastic job, and I can say that with confidence. Based on the AAR comments from the students, the students are receiving the training exceptionally well,” he said.

The first two days of the course mostly are conducted in a classroom where students are taught some basic observer and controller skills including troop-leading procedures, composite risk management, and AAR. The remaining days are spent in the field conducting lanes training.

During the lanes training students learn to set up a lane, aka, an event. After each event they conduct an AAR which gives them the practice they need and allows for feedback from their peers about the AAR.

“I think it’s a very good course,” said Capt. Delandy McConnell, an OCT student at one of the recent courses given at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif. “We’ve received training in communications and troop-leading procedures, the basic things you need as a leader. They also explain what the role of an OCT is, which is a very good class that we received.”

Another student, Sgt. Michael Cly, said, “The training is outstanding and up to date. It’s good knowledge, overall, that will help me perform my duties in the future.”

“Prior to a WAREX or CSTX we’ll have these observer-controllers come back (to the exercise site) and we’ll again do a light refresher with them, give them an opportunity to set-up their lane, rehearse that lane, and also accredit that lane,” Vogel said. “The subject-matter experts, which we now call OCT Embeds, will have an opportunity to recon all the roads and lanes (at the exercise site) so that when they link up with that unit commander, they know that commander’s training objectives, they know the lanes or the locations of those lanes that that unit will go through so that they can be prepared to provide them with a good after-action review. Ultimately all of the units leaving the exercise will get a take-home package that will tell them where their gaps are, training that they need to sustain, and some opportunities for improvement,” Vogel said.

Tassler said OCT training was held at Fort McCoy in October 2010. Three more courses are scheduled at Fort McCoy in fiscal year 2011, with the next course to be held at the end of April.

The Fort McCoy training will help certify many of the Soldiers in Regional Training Center-Central, which is located at Fort McCoy, to become qualified as OCTs and to support their pre-mobilization training mission, he said. Other organizations that assisted in the course development process included the Medical Readiness and Training Command and 75th Battle Command Training Division.

Soldiers and unit representatives who need to schedule the training can register for it at the Army Training Requirements and Resources System (ATRRS), Tassler said.

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