EASTOVER, S.C. - Eisenhower called him “the greatest soldier of our time.” Churchill said he was “a true organizer of victory.” Orson Welles said he was the “greatest man I ever met” and George W. Bush called him a “great architect.”
But what tremendous achievements and accomplishments did America's first five star general, Gen. George C. Marshall, bring to the table for so many world leaders to sing his praise?
Was it his "Marshall Plan," which helped a post World War European economy recover? Was it the fact that he became just the third United States Army officer to win the Nobel Peace Prize? Or was it his extensive work with the National Guard and the Virginia Military Institute throughout his long and illustrious career?
We may never know just what exactly drove these polarizing figures of history to glorify him so highly. But for one Army Reserve unit at Camp McCrady in Eastover, South Carolina, perhaps his most significant contribution of World War II is the one that defines their mission; the development of an individual replacement system.
In 2004, the United States Army Reserve tasked its 108th Training Command, based out of Charlotte, North Carolina, to provide basic combat skills refresher training to mobilized soldiers called to duty for military service in various theaters of operation; from Djibouti in the Horn of Africa to Afghanistan in Central and South Asia in support of the War on Terror. On Aug. 15, 2004, the 108th stood up a task force to accomplish that mission.
What to call it? That was an easy one. There was no more fitting name than that of the great organizer, architect and soldier himself. And thus Task Force Marshall was born.
December 5, 2014 - Staff Sgt. Aaron Matthers, 108th Training Command (IET), provides marksmanship instruction to individual augmentees in preparation for upcoming mobilizations and deployments. Matthers and other mobilized instructors with the 108th Training Command work alongside civilian contractors to provide a three week basic combat skills refresher course to Sailors and Soldiers as part of Task Force Marshall. Task Force Marshall, located at Camp McCrady in Eastover, S.C., works in conjunction with Navy Individual Augmentee Combat Training, or NIACT, and supports more than 4,500 Sailors and 1,100 Soldiers annually. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton)
Task Force Marshall is comprised of a mobilized battalion sized element of drill sergeants from the 108th Training Command, U.S. Army Reserve, in addition to civilian contractors who serve as weapons, munitions and tactics specialists. Together, they provide a three week refresher course to service members called to active duty from various reserve components in support of the Global War on Terrorism, global ebola crisis response and more.
“What we do here is provide a broad spectrum of combat skills refresher training to service members deploying into various theaters across the globe. We start with the basics and try to determine their skill level. After we find out where they're at tactically, we adjust fire and try to provide them with an extra skill set that we think might be useful, depending on the area of operations they're heading to. We give them a good baseline skill set to start from that they can further develop when they get to where they're going,” said Staff Sgt. Aaron Matthers, 98th Training Division, 108th Training Command, a mobilized drill sergeant with Task Force Marshall.
“I've been a drill sergeant for two and a half years now. This is a lot different from working with new recruits in basic training. In Army basic training you're taking a civilian with no knowledge of the military and trying to turn them into a soldier. It's kind of like molding a piece of clay. These guys are all seasoned veterans. You run into different problems here and there, so you have to be flexible. But in the end, everything comes together and I think both the trainees and the cadre walk away with an invaluable experience,” Matthers added.
Shortly after its inception, the need to train sailors for the United States Navy became a reality as that service's top brass realized that most of their individual mobilized service members would be faced with the undeniable reality of an ever-changing ground war. It seemed that more and more of its sailors would be placed in positions away from the confines and safety of the Navy's modern battleships and in austere environments that few of them were trained to fight in. The solution- Task Force Marshall.
In December 2005, the Navy sent its first group of sailors to the three-week course with Task Force Marshall and since then more than 9,000 sailors have received a wide array of marksmanship, weapons and tactics training.
”Individual augmentee is a very good term because all of these men and women come from totally different walks of life. And once they leave here they are dispersed all over; Uganda, Afghanistan, Qatar, just everywhere. So this just makes sense,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Mark Seifert, senior enlisted leader for the Navy Individual Augmentee Combat Training, United States Navy Reserve.
But as with any joint forces mission, there are always some kinks that need to be ironed out before any quality, realistic training can take place. Everything from the multiservice rank structures to customs and courtesies between the two services presented a challenge to both the soldiers and sailors.
“The integration of multiple services working together is always difficult at first, but the service members we have today are extremely intelligent and adapt very quickly. They did it in World War II and it worked very well, so why not now? It's good business. It's smart business,” Seifert said.
No matter what their differences though, both the sailors with the Navy Reserve and the drill sergeants with the Army Reserve work through their issues with each class iteration to provide professional, worthwhile training, giving extra emphasis to the slogan "One team. One fight."
“From my experience, I learned more here than I did when I pre-qualified with the Navy, at least with the weapons anyway. Here everything is done over and over again. It's repetition and it becomes muscle memory. That's a good thing. Back at the Navy, it was a one- or two-day thing. You qualify and that's it. You don't touch the weapons again,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Martha Martinez, a Navy Reserve Sailor headed to Djibouti as an individual augmentee.
“In a way we're the same. This works out well because most of us here are in the Navy Reserve and just kind of got yanked out of our jobs and homes, so to speak. With the drill sergeants being in their Reserve component as well, they have more of an understanding of what we are going through. Everyone here understands that we all do things different, but we're able to work out our differences and get the training we need. It's been great so far,” Martinez said.
So regardless if you serve in the active component Army or reserve component Navy, no matter whether you are called to fight in the Global War on Terrorism in Afghanistan, or participate in Operation United Assistance combating the spread of ebola in West Africa, and regardless of whether you cry "honor, courage and commitment" or "Army strong" come game day, Task Force Marshall embodies all of the qualities that the great organizer of victory himself, Gen. George C. Marshall, envisioned with his concept of the individual replacement system. Yes, service members from every walk of life can agree; Task Force Marshall truly epitomizes the slogan "One team. One fight!"
More photos available below
By U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton
Provided through DVIDS
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