“Attention in the Tactical Operations Center,” echoes off the high ceilings, the noisy din of various shops stopping abruptly to hear the update from the battle captain. A unit has suffered casualties, and the battle captain proceeds to give everyone the details of the incident. Once the information has been put out, the shops jump back into action, boards and maps changed to reflect the new situation, and coordinating instructions take place for remedying the incident.
This is what Soldiers with the 169th Field Artillery Brigade, Colorado Army National Guard, experienced during a communications exercise for their two-week annual training period, Sept. 9 - 23, 2023.
The training tested the brigade in TOC functions during simulated attacks on their subordinate units to assess the teamwork of the brigade staff cells. This exercise prepared the brigade for their upcoming validation next year.
“I was very excited to see the brigade command post and staff in action,” 169th FAB Commander U.S. Army Col. William DiProfio said. “This annual training was designed to get after our core field artillery tasks and prepare for our mobilization validation exercise in January, and we are doing just that.”
The two-week training allowed the COARNG Soldiers to be fully involved in training, something that a typical 2-3-day drill would be unable to provide.
“Having this much time dedicated to training gave us space to set up a whole TOC environment and execute a 4-5-day exercise,” U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Lydia Sprik, a field artillery officer with the 169th FAB and one of two battle captains for the exercise, said. “When we only meet one weekend a month, it’s often busy with other administrative items and inventories. This is a good exercise that trains us in what we would actually do.”
The white cell team, comprised of Soldiers, civilians, and contractors, simulated situations. In this scenario, the brigade reported to the 18th Airborne Corps as their higher echelon and managed two High Mobility Artillery Rocket System battalions, one Multiple Launch Rocket System battalion, and a sustainment battalion--similar to a typical deployed environment for the brigade.
“Our TOC operations are governed by a battle rhythm, a schedule of different events, such as meetings, battle update briefs, commander’s update briefs, and working groups to get groups together to solve different problem sets we might have,” U.S. Army Lt. Col. David Graves, the officer in charge of the 169th FAB’s operations cell, said.
The Doctrine Training Team helped mentor, guide and coach brigade staff through different battle drills while also acting as the corps for higher control and as the subordinate battalions. 1st Army Soldiers, who will validate the brigade in TOC operations next year, also provided support.
This exercise practiced managing a changing tactical environment, one in which the Soldiers within the unit don’t often get to participate. The last time that the unit conducted operations at this scale was in May 2022, during their participation in DEFENDER-Europe 22.
“From my perspective, the exercise was a complete success,” said DiProfio. “All of our digital systems worked together seamlessly. Our staff, while young, did a fantastic job coming together as a team. We have some work to do, but we will be more than ready for our validation in January.”