Fort McCoy News Aug. 12, 2016

88th RSC ensures ambassadors know Soldiers' stories

88th Regional Support Command Public Affairs

Army Reserve ambassadors tell Soldiers' stories at the federal, state, and local government levels. It is important the Army Reserve helps them understand the stories they tell.

The 88th Regional Support Command (RSC) provided an opportunity for ambassadors to gain firsthand insight into what it takes for Soldiers and military leaders to achieve the readiness required to meet the challenges of an evolving military environment.

Twenty-eight Army Reserve ambassadors from 16 states attended the 88th RSC's Army Reserve Ambassador Workshop on Fort McCoy July 15-16. The workshop provided the ambassadors information on the current and future structure of the Army Reserve, how the Army Reserve fits into overall Army readiness, and what the ambassadors can do to assist Soldiers in their states. Speakers included Army Reserve leadership and general officers with units in the 88th RSC's 19-state region, as well as Fort McCoy garrison command staff, 86th Training Division command staff, and 88th RSC command staff.

Army Reserve ambassadors attending the 88th Regional Support Command’s Army Reserve Ambassador Workshop in July tour the Combined Arms Collective Training Facility on Fort McCoy’s South Post.
Army Reserve ambassadors attending the 88th Regional Support
Command's Army Reserve Ambassador Workshop in July tour the
Combined Arms Collective Training Facility on Fort McCoy's South Post.

Maj. Gen. Patrick Reinert, 88th RSC commanding general, welcomed the attendees with a simple message.

"These are interesting times with interesting challenges," stated Reinert.

Reinert went on to explain that readiness is the 88th RSC's No. 1 goal, and ambassadors are a critical partner in communicating not only the needs of the military but the capabilities and accomplishments of the force as well.

Maj. Gen. Les Carroll, commanding general of the 377th Theater Sustainment Command (TSC) in New Orleans, spoke to the ambassadors about training requirements, readiness standards and working together. The 377th TSC is the largest command in the Army Reserve with more than 36,000 Soldiers, more than 900 civilians, and 442 units in 39 states.

"Readiness doesn't just happen in the field," Carroll explained. "Readiness starts with leaders coming together and sharing information. My goal is to get you the information you need."

Carroll went on to explain that ambassadors are the critical link between military leaders and government officials.
"You are the ultimate volunteers," said Carroll.

Doug Gibbens, ambassador for Indiana, spoke during a break about what he had learned so far.

"It's an opportunity to stay up to date and to hear the most-current information," Gibbens said. "Perhaps the most interesting was what Maj. Gen. Carroll was just speaking about — the new training requirements and how we are going to have to transition from the war we have been fighting to the next one."

Gibbens said he will use the information from the workshop in a number of ways.

"One will be with employers," said Gibbens. "We talk with employers and with commanders; the information doesn't always get down to the local level. I'm just one more messenger. There is also a real benefit not only from the speakers that are brought in but from the interaction and sharing experiences with other ambassadors what works for them, what didn't work for them. That sharing is very important."

Steve Carter, ambassador for Minnesota, is a fairly new ambassador, and he shared a few of his focus topics.

"The biggest thing is the need for employers support for Reserve Soldiers to take time off needed for training," Carter said. "Also, any time I talk to anyone in legislation and congressional staffs, I highlight the need to support the military financially. Lastly, the community — I don't think the great American public understands the sacrifices that our Reserve Soldiers make."

Carter went on to state that it was great to hear the priorities of the Army Reserve, the current environment, what challenges the Army Reserve faces, and how he can help in his role.

In addition to the briefings and discussions, the ambassadors were given a front-row seat to a live training exercise conducted by the 86th Training Division during the Warrior Exercise. The ambassadors hid in an urban village and witnessed a platoon's reaction to a vehicle-convoy ambush, then participated in the after-action review that followed.

"This is awesome to see the Soldiers going through training," said Carter. "I was an officer in the Army for 23 years and haven't been through training in a while, so it's just a great experience."

The workshop also included hands-on experiences in the virtual training facilities available on Fort McCoy. Ambassadors were allowed to drive Humvees through a virtual environment and fight off an attack in the Reconfigurable Vehicle Tactical Trainer. They drove an improvised-explosive-device-removal vehicle in the Virtual Clearance Training Suite and fired an array of weapons at on-screen targets in the Engagement Skills Trainer.

When asked why he became an ambassador, Gibbens, who retired from the Army Reserve in 1998, responded that it was an opportunity to keep serving.

"It was a way to stay connected to Soldiers," Gibbens said. "That keeps you young; it's kept me young."

The workshop concluded with a bus tour of the Fort McCoy Range Complex. The ambassadors walked through villages, subway stations and building structures used for realistic training scenarios all designed with one goal in mind: readiness.

The ambassadors will return to their states with a greater understanding of how Soldiers train, what the Army Reserve requires to plan, achieve, and maintain readiness and what they can do to tell the Soldier's story.