Story by Sgt. 1st Class Joe Cashion Photo by Staff Sgt. Robert Di Giovine
EASTOVER, S.C. – Though the U.S. military drawdown in the Middle East continues, that does not mean troop deployments to that part of the world have stopped. To the contrary, units are still being tasked with preparing and deploying to the region for a variety of missions and one such unit currently preparing to depart is Detachment 66 of the 352nd Civil Affairs Command (CACOM) based at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Helping them to prepare for their mission is the South Carolina National Guard’s Pre-mobilization Training and Assistance Element (PTAE) located at the McCrady Training Center.
Recently, Det. 66 took part in Counter Improvised Explosive Device (CIED) training conducted by the S.C. PTAE, training that is critical to saving lives in dangerous environments.
“Counter IED training is huge,” said Staff Sgt. Brian Richards of the PTAE team who led the training. “That’s where most of our casualties come from. So we make sure we cover CIED intensively for all units. We cover all the bases.”
Col. David Schimsa, commander of Det. 66, said the training was very good and extremely beneficial for his Soldiers.
“It’s certainly good for situational awareness,” said Schimsa. “Some of it is a refresher as all but one of our Soldiers has deployed before to either Afghanistan or Iraq. However, the enemy continues to change their tactics so we need to continue to evolve with those changes.”
In addition to the CIED training, the PTAE will train Det. 66 on a variety of other tasks prior to their departure to the assigned mobilization station.
“We’ll train them in Combatives and Drivers training as well as other critical tasks to get them ready for their combat deployment,” said Richards. “We’ll sink everything we know into them to try to get them ready to go overseas.”
If it seems unusual for an Army active duty or Army reserve unit, as Det. 66 is, to use the S.C. National Guard for deployment training, it really isn’t. It’s actually quite common for the PTAE to train units from other components, making them a very valuable resource and showing their ability to work jointly.
“We’ve trained Army active duty units, Army reserve units, Navy units and others so we do more than train S.C Guard units,” Richards said.
For his part, Schimsa had high praise for the PTAE team charged with getting his eight person unit as prepared as they can be for their upcoming mission.
“Training with this team has been outstanding,” he said. “They are very knowledgeable, very easy to work with and it’s really been an asset I didn’t know existed until we got out here with them. With a unit our size, it helps to have an outside unit be able to train everyone and that’s what they can do.”
And regardless of a particular unit’s mission, the PTAE does not deviate from their training plan to ensure that every unit they train is as ready as they can be.
“We treat every unit the same and train them the same way,” said Richards. “That way everyone has a basic, concrete structure prior to them going to their mobilization site where they train on their specific job functions.”
Once their training with the PTAE is complete, Det. 66 will depart for their mobilization station at Fort Dix, New Jersey, for final preparations and then they will head downrange for their assigned mission.