NTC Provides Unique Experiences

Published by: Jennifer Hetzel | Published on: 27 Jun, 2017
NTC Provides Unique Experiences

Written By: Mark Chockran, Sector Chair, Military Relations Council, Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce
Published in the Greater Killeen Business Quarterly 2017 Fort Hood Guide 

It has long been a focus of the military relations council of the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce to help fort hood and the U.S. Army tell its story to community leaders here and elsewhere. In October 2015, we took a new step in that regard. That month, we took our first delegation to the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California. Working with then Commanding General of the First Cavalry Division MG Mike Bills, then Commanding General of NTC MG Joe Martin, and the Heart of Texas Defense Alliance, and with the support of III Corps, we were able to put together a three-day event that has received rave reviews from participants.

Trips are timed to coincide with war exercises in which elements of the First Cavalry Division is engaged, typically preparing for a deployment. NTC is where all the training that units have received at Fort Hood comes together in a collective, near peer, combative war exercise with a focus on learning.

Four groups have traveled to NTC so far. Each group is limited to twelve participants, excluding members of Congress, some of whom attend with the group. Participants are nominated by alumni of previous trips and are solicited by invitation only. The focus is on recruiting influential community and state leaders from outside the immediate Fort Hood community. A few local community leaders participate to help build relationships.

A briefing is held prior to the trip at the First Cavalry Division Headquarters hosted by division commanders. Participants learn about the history of Fort Irwin, the nature of the training that occurs there and how it complements other training that units receive.

Much about the trip is predictable. That being said, Fort Irwin is located in the Mohave Desert. Weather conditions are not so predictable. A successful event requires a robust communications process, from beginning to end.

The trip consists of an intense three days. The first day consists of air travel from Killeen to Ontario, California and then overland to Fort Irwin. The second day begins with a briefing by the NTC staff and time spent “in the box” observing the battle and after action exercises. Several stops are made during the day where participants get to engage NTC staff and First Cavalry Division Soldiers. There is an organized dinner each evening. The third day is a reversal of day one.

Participants travel and stay together. The chamber makes all the arrangements. Each participant pays a package fee to the chamber.

To date, we have had city managers, mayors, school superintendents, workforce commissioners, university regents, university system employees and business leaders from all over the state participate.

Going in, we knew that this trip would produce more knowledgeable participants who, over time, could help us influence public opinion about the U.S. Army. And, they are. That influence extends to members of Congress, who many are encouraging to visit NTC.

There are two other results that have exceeded our expectations. First, by design, many participants have limited exposure to the Army. All come away with a great sense of respect for the quality of the American Soldier, their capabilities and the sacrifices they make. Second, strong and enthusiastic relationships develop between participants. They share what many call a once in a lifetime event with people they did not know before. New networks are developed that will prove useful in the future.