Let me start by apologizing for missing our last Shimbun submission. We were busy dominating Geronimo at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana!
At JRTC, we continued to set the bar higher for the Army from a mission command and warfighting standpoint. Due to the efforts of the Rakkasan Soldiers, Commanders, and Staffs, we completed the Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration (RSO&I) portion of the rotation over 24 hours faster than planned, providing valuable time for troop leading procedures prior to operations.
Once we deployed to Atropia, the Rakkasans took the fight to Geronimo across all warfighting functions, and did not stop fighting until the Observer Controller/Trainers (OC/Ts) initiated a tactical pause. Without going into specifics, we killed/destroyed numerous OPFOR vehicles, personnel, and equipment, enabling bold and mission accomplishment in a complex, decisive action, multi-domain training environment.
One of my favorite moments was at the After Action Review, when I got the opportunity to hear about the individual accomplishments of some of our Soldiers, particularly the Hero of the Battle. This Rakkasan singlehandedly destroyed three armored fighting vehicles with his anti-armor weapon system, resulting in a significant degradation of enemy advance. As you may know, tanks and BMPs present some very dangerous challenges for light infantry units, even the world’s premier Air Assault Division. Typically, the OCs have to tell the
OPFOR to turn down the heat on the units, so they can get some training value out of their rotations. In our case, the OCs met to discuss how to slow us down…a compliment to the aggressiveness and bias for action of our Rakkasan Soldiers.
Not only did the Rakkasans excel in lethality and warfighting, but our leaders set the bar high in terms of finding efficient and innovative solutions to the most vexing CTC problems. Our logisticians determined that it was more cost effective for the Army to move our equipment from Fort Campbell, Kentucky to Fort Polk, Louisiana by barge. Moving equipment by barge saved the brigade over one million dollars each way. That money is being reinvested into the post infrastructure and will increase the Division’s deployment readiness.
This JRTC rotation was also the first where the MCAS (Mission Command Augmentation Support) system was employed at a CTC. We designed and fielded this system for the first time during the winter FTX with excellent results. Among other things, the MCAS results in the ability to continuously plan and conduct mission command while significantly reducing the tactical forward footprint. Gone are the days of the large TOC footprints where it takes 12-15 hours to set up and tear down the TOC. After a few repetitions, it took us about an hour to be fully up on our mission command systems. We were able to reduce the size of the BCT TOC by 70% by keeping planning and analysis functions in sanctuary out of contact with the enemy.
The footprint is so small, that Geronimo had difficulty determining which TOC was a battalion TOC and which was the brigade TOC. This, in addition to the lethality demonstrated by your Rakkasan Soldiers, likely contributed to why the BCT TOC was not discovered until the final battle. While all of the tactical and administrative victories at JRTC are important, what’s most important is that we did all of that without losing or destroying unit equipment or without a loss of the Army’s greatest resource, our Soldiers. I’d also like to highlight that we’re working very hard to preserve the heritage and good name of the organization you all have worked so hard to build. We did not have any instances of unprofessional behavior during the rotation. We acknowledge that we’re not the owners of the heritage and lineage, we’re simply leasing it and attempting to grow it. We’re committed to showing the world that we are as professional as we are lethal.
Immediately following JRTC (and I do mean literally days after redeploying), we sent the 2018 Best Sapper Winners back to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri to compete in the 2019 competition. There, they represented the Rakkasans and the 101st well once again, and demonstrated their Sapper prowess at the big show. At the end, the CPT Chelednik/ 1SG Clark team placed very high, and while we did not win this year, I’m happy that the trophy stays at Fort Campbell for another year. Congratulations to Strike on keeping the trophy at home.
Concurrently, we sent teams to the Best Mortar Competition down at Fort Benning, Georgia, where they put on quite a show. While not as mature of a competition as Best Ranger Competition and Best Sapper Competition, our team demonstrated that they were the best in the 101st Airborne Division, and were selected to represent the Screaming Eagles. They demonstrated to the rest of the competitors the aggressive warfighting spirit that all Rakkasans embody by placing lethal rounds on targets while performing other mortar tasks.
We’re proud to announce that we dominated the 2019 Best Ranger Competition as well. Fifty-five teams started the competition. At the halfway point, half of the teams were eliminated. Standing on the stage after the competition were 16 teams. Of those teams, the 101st had three teams, placing 1st, 3rd, and 16th. On those teams, five of the six competitors were Rakkasans, the other Ranger was a Strike Soldier. The winning team of CPT John Bergman and CPT Mike Rose represented a total of five wins; the Rose/Bergman team winning in 2014 and 2019, with Rose also winning in 2017 with another Ranger. I’d like to point out, that one of the teams had a Specialist compete. This goes to show the grit and determination of our young Rakkasan. This Soldier only recently graduated Ranger School and then begun training daily to earn a spot on the BRC team and represent his unit in one of the most widely known and challenging Army competitions.
We also sent some War Rakkasans to Fort Benning to compete in the Gainey Cup. Like our other competitions, we sent the very best Fort Campbell and the 101st Airborne Division had to offer to the competition. The scouts did very well, demonstrating their ability to serve as the eyes and ears of the Brigade Combat Team in front of an international audience. What some don’t necessarily know, is that some of our partner nations are also invited to compete for the Gainey Cup. The scouts undoubtedly learned some important lessons from the international scouts.
On the innovation front, we recently signed an Educational Partnership Agreement with Vanderbilt University with the assistance of Army Futures Command. This partnership will allow Vanderbilt and the 101st Airborne Division to collaborate on projects that are mutually
beneficial to both the university and the Division. These projects can be technical in nature, such as using 3-D printing technology to develop expendable and expensive items to augment the Army supply system, or process-based, employing AI to help our intelligence analysts solve complex problems.
While all of this was going on, we took some time to give you all, our Veterans, the best treatment we could during Rak Week and the 50th Anniversary of Hamburger Hill leading up to Week of the Eagles. You honored us with your presence and the Welcome Home ceremony was something I will never forget. We also appreciate those that were able to join us for the Rakkasan Ball where we welcomed our guests of honor, the HCOR and HCSMOR, and our fabulous guest speaker, BG (R) Pete Dawkins.
We’re forever indebted to all of you and hosting you all at your home is the least we can do to show our appreciation for your years of selfless service and immeasurable contributions to the Rakkasans. We sincerely hope that you all enjoyed your time here and look forward to seeing you again next year.
This will be my final Shimbun submission.
On August 22nd I will change command with COL Brandon Teague. By then, all seven of our battalion commanders will have changed as well. It is a time of transition and the Rakkasans have once again been blessed with talented leaders who are prepared to sustain the readiness the BCT has built over the last two years. Fortunately, we will have our command sergeants major to guide the brigade through that transition and ensure we continue to master the fundamentals, dominate our competition, and prepare for our next Rendezvous with Destiny!
Let Valor Not Fail!
Colonel John P. Cogbill
CSM Alvaro Pertuz