The Wisconsin Army National Guard's 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team will partner with an active duty brigade combat team to share knowledge, tactics and best practices as part of an Army initiative to build collaboration between the National Guard and its active duty counterparts.
Called the Total Force Partnership Program, each active duty brigade combat team will be paired with a sister National Guard brigade combat team. Wisconsin's Red Arrow will be paired with the Army's Third Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.
Leadership from both brigades met at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, over the summer and agreed to start small and begin working toward larger objectives and collaborations, according to Col. Mike Rand, the commander of the 32nd.
Rand believes that both units stand to learn a great deal from one another and share lessons learned from deployments, in training and in day-to-day operations.
He envisions staff officer exchanges where the two brigades send their leaders to each unit's respective large-scale exercises to be both observers and participants in an effort to share best practices. They can also compare standard operating procedures or serve as opposing forces or evaluators in exercises.
"It's not that they are better," Rand said. "But just to learn different methods and ways of accomplishing the same mission."
That cross-pollination of ideas and standard operating procedures between active duty and the National Guard will only strengthen the knowledge base in both components, he said.
The brigades can collaborate in other ways as well, Rand said. Next summer, for example, the 32nd plans to conduct testing for Soldiers who hope to earn the Expert Infantry Badge. Rand and leadership from the Third BCT discussed the possibility of the unit sending personnel to act as external evaluators for the testing.
While Rand and other Red Arrow leaders know their Soldiers stand to benefit from joint training opportunities like master gunner courses and potentially even air assault training, he also knows that the 32nd has a lot to offer its sister unit as well. The 32nd already shared with the Third BCT some of the strategies it used to achieve high weapons qualification scores.
"The active duty was amazed that we are evaluated on the same standards, and we do it on a part-time basis with an M-day force," he said. "They were amazed at the time we put into being a National Guard Soldier along with our civilian employment and that we are able to maintain the same Army Physical Fitness Test and height and weight standards. We sat down and discussed that we all have much of the same issues."
The new partnership is not the first time the Army has paired active duty and National Guard units together. Previous relationships have proven useful and provided a vehicle to get external feedback. The Guard and active duty have also forged strong bonds while serving together over the course of the past 13 years of war.
The Army hopes the partnerships increase training opportunities for both components, boost leadership development and lead to increased knowledge-sharing.