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By Sgt. Nathaniel Free
204th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade
The Utah National Guard’s 204th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Utah National Guard, will be breaking from tradition with two annual training events in the same calendar year, scheduled for June and November 2020.
“We have the opportunity to train with some of the best units in the Army in 2020. It will challenge us as a unit to prepare for that reality, but the 204th is absolutely up to the task,” said Command Sgt. Maj. John McNichol, senior enlisted advisor in the brigade.
Annual training, or AT, is a required training period that spans approximately two weeks, allowing part-time Soldiers to stay proficient in crucial skills in their various fields of expertise. Annual training is unique to National Guard and Reserve units, which are mostly composed of part-time Soldiers performing military duties only one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer.
The Utah National Guard’s training year begins in October, to coincide with the availability of federal funds, and ends in September at the close of the fiscal year. While it’s uncommon to have an annual training event at the start of a training year, it isn’t entirely unheard of.
“As part of the Army's Total Force Policy, the 204th MEB is transitioning into an operational reserve force by aligning with 4th Infantry Division’s training plan,” explained Maj. Michael Ditto, the brigade training officer. “Because of our exceptional performance in the 2018 Warfighter, the 4th ID specifically requested our participation in this year’s exercise.”
Having two weeks of active-duty pay right before the holidays could be a welcomed boon for many service members, but Col. Woodrow Miner, commander of the 204th MEB, also recognized how a second AT could be challenging for some families.
“Family readiness is a crucial aspect of unit readiness,” Miner said. “We encourage Soldiers to use their time at home wisely, to prepare for these training periods.”
Part of Miner’s command philosophy includes the tenet, “Be there for your family.”
Most Soldiers learn about AT dates at the beginning of the fiscal year, providing families and civilian employers at least six months to prepare. In this case, Soldiers were made aware of AT dates more than 10 months in advance.
“We couldn’t do what we do without the support of our civilian employer counterparts and we recognize their sacrifice,” Miner said. “Soldiers will be provided a memo for their employers to emphasize the importance of annual training to the overall readiness of Utah’s citizen-Soldiers.”
The 204th MEB leadership has encouraged Soldiers to work with their ESGR representatives to promote cooperation and understanding between Utah National Guard service members and civilian employers.
“This training event will put the 204th MEB on the same level as our active-duty counterparts,” said Ditto.
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