|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.
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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),