Fort McCoy News May 8, 2015

86th Training Division to host distinguished visitors

FORT McCOY, Wis. — With the weather in Wisconsin heating up, so is the 86th Training Division's planning for the two 2015 Combat Support Training Program (CSTP) exercises being conducted here in May and August.

A major component of this planning, which is conducted almost exclusively behind the scenes, is done by the Joint Visitors Bureau (JVB), which hosts dozens of distinguished visitors (DVs) for each exercise.

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Lt. Col. Antony Thompson, secretary of the general staff at the 86th Training Division, sets out posters that will be used in the Joint Visitors Bureau in building 220. Photo by Scott T. Sturkol

The DVs, who are colonel commanders and command sergeants major or above, come to Fort McCoy to see their troops training in a field environment and to get a better understanding of the mechanics of the exercises.

The 86th Training Division's objective, with respect to DVs, is three-fold. First, it conveys the mechanics of the exercise and CSTP program in general and how it fits into the Army Reserve's Force Generation model. Second, the division briefs a DV on the current situation within the training environment. And third, it allows the DVs to conduct battlefield circulation to visit as many of their troops as their schedules allow. The JVB facilitates these objectives and maximizes a DV's time on the ground.

The mission of the JVB within the CSTP construct is critical to the success of the Army Reserve. Many DVs and national decision-makers visit CSTP exercises in any given year.

The JVB is often the first to greet a DV and brief them on the nature and focus of the exercise, and the missions taking place during their visit. In collaboration with the Public Affairs Office, the JVB is the primary marketing tool for CSTP exercises.

Informing DVs about what they will observe and then showing them Soldiers on the ground executing missions often becomes the best advertising for CSTP exercises, which can help ensure future success for such exercises and the Army Reserve.

As CSTP exercises continue to evolve into more joint, multi-service exercises, the JVB will play an even more critical role.

"Between the two exercises in 2014, the 86th hosted over 120 DVs," said Lt. Col. Antony Thompson, secretary of the general staff and JVB chief. "A lot of work goes into each visit, and the division leadership take it very seriously."

On the importance of leaders visiting the CSTP exercises, Commanding General of the 86th Training Division and Exercise Director Brig. Gen. George "Randy" Thompson said, "It really helps them understand how their unit(s) fit into the Decisive Action Training Environment and allows them to better make recommendations as to how to improve the exercise(s) for their operational or functional areas of experience."

DVs, however, are not limited to general officers and command sergeants major; every year, members of the government's Senior Executive Service have visited. During a 2014 exercise, an assistant secretary of the Army visited. With CSTP exercises becoming "purple," a term that describes the integration of multiple-component and joint-service units and personnel, "you never know who may show up next," said Thompson.

"That is why the 86th Training Division's JVB is prepared for the unexpected and ready to maximize every minute of a DV's visit," said Thompson.

   (Prepared by the 86th Training Division.)