[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                     March 13, 2009
Training

Observer-Controller-Trainers help prepare troops for mobilization missions

By Tom Michele, The Real McCoy Contributor

An Observer-Controller-Trainer (OCT) is not just a Soldier walking shoulder-to-shoulder with mobilizing Soldiers going through training at Fort McCoy in preparation to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Photo: Master Sgt. John Burnor explains the Operation Warrior Trainer Observer-Controller-Trainer program to demobilizing Soldiers from the 201st Engineer Battalion of Kentucky. (Photo by Tom Michele)
Master Sgt. John Burnor explains the Operation Warrior Trainer Observer-Controller-Trainer program to demobilizing Soldiers from the 201st Engineer Battalion of Kentucky. 
(Photo by Tom Michele)  

OCTs serve a very distinct instructorís role as the trainees sprint through a simulated village, guns blazing with blank ammunition fire or actual live fire.

Master Sgt. John Burnor, one of two Operation Warrior Trainer (OWT)-OCTs with the 181st Infantry Brigade at Fort McCoy, said, "In our training of mobilizing Soldiers at Fort McCoy, we give them an edge by stressing safety and awareness so they will be able to protect themselves and their fellow Soldiers while in combat, and for them to get back home safely."

Sgt. Maj. Jacqueline McRae, the senior OWT-OCT Coordinator, said, "The advantage to Soldiers in the OWT-OCT program is mobilizing Soldiers receive hands-on realistic training, which enhances their knowledge and skill that benefits them when they deploy to a hostile environment. The training our OCTs provide is to help Soldiers become proficient in performing their missions."

McRae said mobilizing Soldiers get to learn from Soldiers who already have acquired these combat skills and life experiences. "Soldiers overseas rely on us to send quality and well-trained Soldiers as replacements."

As part of the OWT-OCT program, McRae and Burnor also recruit demobilizing Soldiers returning from theater to McCoy. These Soldiers are trained to use the experience and knowledge they gained in those specific theaters. First Army conducts the OWT-OCT program at 10 installations, Fort McCoy being one of them.

The program, in existence at McCoy since November 2005, allows redeployed Soldiers to voluntarily remain on active duty to train mobilizing Soldiers to Army standards. McRae and Burnor try to conduct a briefing on the first day of the five-day demobilization process at the Soldier Readiness Center to inform Soldiers of the program and to further explain the benefits of this program.

Potential Soldier candidates return throughout the five-day period to contact McRae and Burnor for possible entry into the OWT-OCT program.

Soldiers primarily learn about the program during the demobilization process, although First Army promotes the program to Soldiers while they still are in-theater.


"The advantage to Soldiers in the OWT-OCT program is mobilizing Soldiers receive hands-on realistic training, which enhances their knowledge and skill ..."

Sgt. Maj. Jacqueline McRae,
Senior OWT-OCT Coordinator,
181st Infantry Brigade

"A Soldier only has three to five days from the time they return to the states to determine if they want to remain on active duty as an OWT instructor," McRae said. "But the program does allow for a Soldier to join the program up to 180 days from the time they return to the states, itís just much simpler if they do it while still on duty and in the demob process at the demob station."

An OWT-OCT Soldier may volunteer for a one-year tour of duty that is extendable for one more year. Soldiers considered for OCT positions are reserve-component personnel in the ranks of staff sergeant through master sergeant, warrant officers 1-3 and lieutenants, captains and majors.

McRae said interested Soldiers are interviewed regarding their combat experience. Soldiers must meet Army regulations and standards. Soldiers have an option to elect duty at other Army installations or at Fort McCoy.

The OWT-OCT candidates at McCoy will meet with the 181st Infantry Brigade command sergeant major as part of the selection process. Based on the interview and the needs of the brigade, new OCTs are placed in areas of their expertise, such as urban operations, convoy operations, weapons live-fire exercises, combat life saver, combatives, OPFOR (opposing forces role players) and some cultural role players positions.

Final selection into the program, regardless of duty location, is decided by the training support brigade command sergeant major. Once selected, the new OCT will go through a two-week OCT trainer course and attend combat life saver classes.

The 181st conducts mobilization training at McCoy. McRae said there are more than 300 authorized OWT-OCT positions at Fort McCoy. First Army has several thousand positions throughout their training sites.

Burnor said he had trained at McCoy in July 2007 prior to being deployed to Iraq and that, "the caliber of training I received from those OCTs was very high. It was very serious training that gave me a sense and feeling of what I would experience when I deployed overseas. I performed route clearance duties in Baghdad and Sadr City, and understood how to intermingle with local people. The training I got at McCoy was important because it gave me an expectation of the environment, weather, terrain and culture I was about to encounter."

"I returned in July 2008," Burnor said, "and am one of the two OWT-OCT recruiters, with Sergeant Major McRae, at the 181st. The OWT-OCT program is important because we get the right skills to the mobilizing Soldier, a Soldier who wants to get the training and help other Soldiers. A key to our program is Soldiers helping Soldiers.

(Michele is a public affairs specialist for Eagle Systems and Services Inc., contractor for CONUS Support Base Services.)

 

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