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Engineers test capabilities by playing OPFORS

Update from JWA19

U.S. soldiers with 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, and 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, stage military vehicles during a rehearsal in support of Joint Warfighting Assessment 19 at Yakima Training Center. Photo credit: Spc. Danielle Hendrix

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Soldiers from Bravo Company, 23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, prepared to demonstrate full defensive capabilities as opposing forces at Joint Warfighting Assessment 2019, Yakima Training Center, April 23-May 9.

JWA19 is the premier, live, large-scale modernization exercises that advances Joint Modernization Interoperability for the U.S. Army. To bring a real-world experience to the exercise, the Army utilizes existing units as the opposing forces in a controlled training environment.

"The platoon is supporting the 23rd Infantry Regiment by building the obstacles on the battlefield," said Staff Sgt. Westley Elward, B Company platoon sergeant. "The goal is to create applicable real-world scenarios that both teams can learn from."

Capt. Nichole Rotte, commander of Bravo Company, has been strategizing OPFORS capabilities that will provide challenges to the units participating in JWA19.

"I am in charge of getting the engineer equipment to reduce the obstacles so that the assault force can move through and seize the object," said Rotte.

The unit's mission during this exercise is to test the equipment being utilized to reduce the obstacles during the breach. One of the technologies tested is an autonomous vehicle that is equipped with a smoke generator to block visual detection.

"The Next Generation Combat Vehicle is being used for near and far side security," said Rotte. "The command vehicle is behind it and out of direct fire from the enemy."

However, reducing obstacles put in place by the opposition is not easy. The heavy work presented new challenges to the platoon, which required quick and effective adaptability.

"The terrain is really tough on the equipment because the platoon lacks the proper capabilities to penetrate hard ground and we've had some equipment break down," said Elward. "Bigger dozers have been brought out along with two D-7s, which has improved the ability to penetrate hard ground."

Although B Company's main objective is to serve as the OPFORS, the unit is utilizing this exercise to learn more about their overall capabilities and improve upon any inefficiencies.

Rotte said working as the OPFORS has significantly impacted and increased their defense planning. Being able to train with and employ in the defense fight has been great for achieving the unit's mission-essential tasks.

"It's been rewarding to observe how we as engineers adapt and overcome challenges that could easily happen in real-world scenarios," said Elward. "These type of exercises bring soldiers together; this is where you get to learn your soldiers the best and build strong bonds."

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