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OC/T strives to improve himself and others at XCTC 22-01

FORT DRUM, New York (July 23, 2022) — A red light illuminates the camouflaged face of a 36-year-old Maryland Army National Guard engineer, Staff Sgt. James Hamilton, as he analyzes radio chatter between senior leaders of 3rd Platoon. The sun has almost set over Fort Drum, New York, and darkness begins to engulf Hamilton and the platoon of Jersey National Guard Soldiers sitting idle in their Humvees in a field.

“Second Squad will advance from the OP to recon to the objective,” says the 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment, 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team platoon leader over the radio.

Hamilton exhales a sigh of anticipation as he scrambles out of his Humvee to join the platoon leader and the recon element. It is his job as the Embed Observer, Coach/Trainer to observe and guide the platoon through their eXportable Combat Training Capability (XCTC) Support by Fire training lane.

It is day five, July 17, 2022, of XCTC 22-01, and Hamilton’s third XCTC rotation as an OC/T in just his second year assigned to the Army National Guard’s Operations Group Wolf.

“It’s long days and little sleep,” said Hamilton. “But that’s the mission. We are helping them develop and refine their tactics and processes to become more proficient as an element.”

Hamilton joined ARNG-OGW, headquartered at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, from the Warrior Training Unit at Fort Benning, Georgia, in June 2021.

“I had heard a lot about the battalion while I was working at the Warrior Training Unit,” Hamilton said. “When I got my orders, I was excited to be doing something that would have a direct impact on training and mentoring Soldiers and influencing the success of future missions.”

Hamilton was highly spoken of before arriving to the Battalion and leaders throughout the formation were excited to have him as part of the team.

“I’ve known him since my time at WTC,” said Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Nungester, OGW Alpha Company Noncommissioned Officer in Charge. “He was on Active Duty for Operational Support orders as my [Headquarters and Headquarters Company] operations assistant. I have always seen potential in him…and I think he is going to become a pivotal member.”

ARNG-OGW is a training battalion composed of Title-10 ADOS and Active Guard Reserve Soldiers from across the United States.

“Soldiers volunteer to work for this organization,” said ARNG-OGW Battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Haney. “We want Soldiers who challenge themselves, because we are some of the highest trained and most doctrinally proficient leaders in the Army National Guard.”

Preparation and planning for XCTCs is just as intensive for the OC/Ts as for the partner training units, like the 44th IBCT.

“For our OC/Ts, it is a year-long process,” said ARNG-OGW Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Victor Becerra. “We must maintain currency with the [First Army] Policy Memo 13, conduct Ranger/Infantry Doctrine Boards, Mission Essential Task training and OC/T validations.”

Overall, over 200 hours of training is conducted yearly to ensure OC/Ts are proficient mentors during XCTCs.

“My first XCTC was shortly after my arrival to OGW,” said Hamilton. “I didn’t have much experience, or the formal training required, so I was shadowing senior leaders within the battalion.”

Nungester said over time he has seen Hamilton gain the tactical and technical knowledge to become a trusted expert in the organization.

No longer considered a novice OC/T, Hamilton still works every day to improve himself.

“For XCTC 22-01 I knew I would be on my own and as an engineer observing an infantry platoon, I researched and studied certain tasks and evaluations,” said Hamilton. “I feel way more comfortable in my role and interacting with the platoon after all the training.”

All that preparation and training was also well recognized by the 44th IBCT Soldiers.

“Our experience with Staff Sgt. Hamilton was the utmost professional and rewarding,” said Cpt. Jonathan Warren, D Company commander. “He brought new Troop Leading Procedures to our already slightly unconventional methods while encouraging us to continue to develop and refine our ways.”

“Staff Sgt. Hamilton greatly enhanced not only the operational readiness of 3rd Platoon, but D Co. as a whole,” said Warren.

Training for combat training rotations are not the only objectives and motivators for Hamilton. He recently graduated from Ranger School.

“I learned a lot about tactics, but mostly about myself,” said Hamilton. “The easiest part was going through the school. Now the hard part is living up to the name of being a Ranger.”

With two years left at OGW, Hamilton said he hopes to complete more civilian and military courses to further develop himself into a better leader and Soldier.

“We encourage our OC/Ts to continue to strive for both professional and military education while they are with our organization,” said Becerra. “This provides OGW with the recipe for competent and motivated OC/Ts which feeds into the organization’s and National Guard’s mission success.”

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