NEWS | Dec. 4, 2020

From NCO to Virtual Commander

By Sgt. Nathaniel Free 204th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade

Warfighters are designed to test the communication networks, warfighting capability and readiness of every unit involved. For some Soldiers, it meant stepping into a new role.

“Our leaders are in charge of so many big-picture things, while I’m typically in charge of just this small portion,” explained Sgt. Carmen Ojeda, an Army automated logistical specialist for the Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 204th MEB, Utah National Guard.

During the warfighter exercise, she was assigned to the role of an officer-in-charge of logistical statistics and supply chains.

“It’s good to see how my piece fits into the bigger picture and doing this has given me a new perspective,” Ojeda said.

According to Ojeda, learning how her individual job in the military fits into the big picture of a realistic-battlefield scenario helped her overcome the day-to-day difficulties. During commander update briefs, she provided the brigade staff with updates on supply, to include heavy equipment for all maneuver units.

The combat portion of the warfighter is simulated using computers called Battle Space Workstations. Sitting at her workstation, Ojeda can resupply units or move an entire battalion with a few clicks of her mouse.

“I’m doing route clearance,” said Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Bonzo, assistant operations noncommissioned officer with the 1457th Engineer Battalion, 204th MEB. Like Ojeda, he spends most of his day sitting behind a computer. His route-clearing mission appears as a series of small logos representing units in a virtual battlespace.

“It took a while to figure out the job, especially how to work the program,” Bonzo admitted.

Even though the warfighter was mostly virtual, basic military training still applies.

“We have to put into practice the military decision-making process,” Bonzo said. “We can see how everything works together. The brigade has requirements, and I translate that down to the battalions, companies, platoons and squads.”

Soldiers of the 204th MEB had been preparing to participate in this exercise for over a year.

“We’re practicing communicating with other elements of the task force and we give that information to the brigade staff so they can create courses of action,” said Staff Sgt. Travis Minear, HHC, 204th MEB.

Minear was a forward observer by trade, but he was working as a military police battalion commander overseeing a route-clearing mission.

“We were trained on the program for four days,” Minear said. “The first three days were difficult. It pushed us to learn how to operate and respond quickly to hostile action from the perspective of a commander.”

For the noncommissioned officers of the 204th MEB, learning to see the ever-changing battlefield as virtual commander provided invaluable training, but especially a new perspective.