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Junior Soldiers Learning To Perform
by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jacob Kohrs
March 14, 2019

From October 1–10, 2018 ... over 100 soldiers from the 17th Field Artillery ‘Thunderbolt’ Brigade headquarters participated in support of the Warfighter Exercise 19-1 ... a routine training exercise designed to validate multi-functional echelons above brigade headquarters in high intensity combat scenarios. The exercise allows units to test their standard operating procedures under stress, in a learning environment.

“The 17th Field Artillery Brigade participated in Warfighter 19-1 over the last 10 days,” said the 17th FA Bde. operations sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. Sean O’Brien. “This exercise is built upon individual skills and allowed our sections to conduct one of the most realistic collective training events the Army has to offer.”

For some of the junior soldiers an exercise like this is the only time they are able to learn how to truly work their Military Occupational Specialty.

“This is the first time I’ve been able to work this aspect of my job, so almost everything was new.” said Pfc. Joe Wickenhauser 13F Fire Support Specialist with 17th FA Bde. “It is really hard to do what I was doing for this exercise in garrison, because we are not able to process hundreds and hundreds of acquisitions like we were able to here running them through the computer scenario.”

October 10, 2018 - Pfc. Joe Wickenhauser of 17th Field Artillery Brigade is monitoring the counter-fires activity on his computer for the Warfighter 19-1 exercise at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Warfighter Exercise 19-1 is a routine training exercise designed to validate multifunctional echelons above brigade headquarters in high intensity combat scenarios, and allows units to test their standard operating procedures under stress, in a learning environment. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob Kohrs, 17th FA BDE PAO)

Wickhauser is what the Army calls a FISTER. In the ‘Thunderbolt’ Bde. FISTERs are used to work the Counter-Battery fires control.

“One of the biggest hurdles that we have is clearing air space, and in an environment where you are working at the lowest echelon, we are being forced to work with the other units and the Air Force to be able to execute a mission. You really can’t do any of this without an organized training event like this,” said Wickhauser.

Other soldiers have MOSs that are similar in both a garrison and tactical environment, but they produce different challenges.

“During an exercise like this, that it is supposed to be more tactical,” said Spc. Anthony Clark, 25B Information Technology Specialist with 17th FA Bde. “There are other MOSs in our series that can be of more use, but as long as there is a computer there is always something that I can be doing.”

Clark went on to say that when it comes to exercises there is always an opportunity to learn or gain some new knowledge.

“In my MOS there is always something to be learned as technology advances. It is one of those things that is always evolving and changing and it isn’t like the six-months that we spend in school can teach us everything that we need to know,” said Clark. “So I was able to learn a few new things about how to do my job better from this exercise.”

In the end, an exercise like Warfighter 19-1 gives everyone from the highest generals to the lowest privates the ability to grow both personally and professionally.

“This learning environment gives us the opportunity to identify the things we do well and the things we do not. The Thunderbolt soldiers that participated in this event have truly become better Warfighters!“ said O’Brien.

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