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Cold Steel Brigade trains California National Guard soldiers

Col. Hank Barnes, commander of 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West, First Army (left) at North Fort Hood, Texas, April 4, 2022. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Scott J. Evans, 189th Infantry Brigade Public Affairs Office

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FORT HOOD, Texas - The command team of 40th Infantry Division, California Army National Guard, conducted a War Fighter Exercise (WFX) with direct support from Observer, Coach and Trainers (OC/Ts) of the 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West - First Army, at North Fort Hood throughout the first half of April.

40th ID, also known as the Sunburst Division, fulfilled the WFX as part of their annual training requirement. Every staff section of the division was provided a 24/7 simulated tactical operations environment where soldiers exercised timely battle planning, reporting, and monitoring of their coordinated efforts against enemy forces in a modern warfighting scenario. OC/Ts over-watched the soldiers, providing assessments and after-action reviews throughout the training.

189th Infantry Brigade supports training missions with the goal of preparing Army Reserve and National Guard units to effectively operate within a large scale combat environment, while gaining confidence in their command and control systems and internal processes. Priding themselves as highly-effective mentors and trainers, the Cold Steel Brigade has long tutored units throughout the western United States to be successful on the battlefield.

With these goals in mind, the brigade's OC/Ts engaged every section of the division's headquarters element in a series of challenging missions and injects. The WFX also served as the second of three Command Post Exercises (CPX) for 40th ID with the aim of improving their operational prowess.

U.S. Army Col. Hank Barnes, commander of the 189th Infantry Brigade, travelled alongside his staff and OC/Ts from their JBLM headquarters to serve as the exercise director.

"CPX II is a critical part of 40th ID's training path to future training events," said Barnes. "This exercise specifically formalizes how they communicate across the battlefield, share information and understanding, and enable good decision making by their leaders."

Barnes and his staff, alongside Division West leadership, were highly impressed by the progress Sunburst Division made since the onset of the exercise.

"First Army assesses the 40th ID to be above the standard they set for themselves for this exercise," he added. "They are growing and learning faster than what we anticipated from their first CPX in California last month. The 40th ID is a learning organization that gets better each day, and responds very well to coaching."

Leaders from 40th ID were delighted with the shared professionalism by Cold Steel Brigade.

Lt. Col. Christopher Elson, commander of the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion (HHBN), 40th ID, expressed his appreciation for his team.

"I am impressed with the improvement from one training event to the next," said Elson. "After three years in seven exercises and two division WFXs (with 40th ID), the soldiers of HHBN never fail to meet my expectations as the most professional and competent headquarters element I have worked with."

The training methodologies employed by First Army are ever-evolving to best meet Army National Guard needs of achieving operational readiness and mission success.

"First Army's approach to building Division readiness is sound - OC/Ts with doctrinal expertise and exceptional interpersonal skills - ultimately preparing the 40th ID for its Warfighter Exercise and strengthening the relationship with our California partner," Barnes remarked.

Sunburst Division's intensive operation tempo reflected how they make mission to real-world challenges back home.

"Our division has been responding to California state emergencies virtually non-stop for the last two years," Elson added. "The Sunburst Division stands ready and is excited to train and meet the nation's call to serve anywhere in the world."

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