RALEIGH, N.C. – There is something special happening at Fort Bragg for the North Carolina National Guard. Fort Bragg is known as the home of Airborne and Special Operations forces, now, it will be known as one of the premier training centers in the United States.
Recently, the N.C. Guard’s 139th Regiment - Regional Training Institute (Combat Arms) and home of the N.C. Military Academy (NCMA) was honored as an “Institution of Excellence” from the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).
The school, which began as the NCMA in 1958, initially trained future officers for the North Carolina National Guard. After many years, the school expanded their capabilities and led training on a wide variety of combat skills. Finally, in 1995, the Total Army School System (TASS) recognized the 139th as a Combat Arms School Brigade and in 2009; the unit changed their name to the 139th Regiment – Regional Training Institute.
The facility, which began as a conglomeration of World War II style barracks, is now a newly renovated school consisting of 15 classrooms, a 179 seat auditorium, a computer lab, complete dining facility and furnished barracks for 419 personnel. The new training regiment holds 23 accreditations ranging from professional development schools like commissioned and noncommissioned officer training to disciplines in infantry, armor, engineers, transportation and health services.
One class that continues to set the standard at the RTI is the field artillery course that trains cannon and Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) crew members and fire direction and fire support specialists as well.
The field artillery course has graduated more than 130 students in this past year. In fact, the field artillery course has been recognized three times in the last five years as an “Institution of Excellence” winner.
Senior leaders were recently treated to cannon crew member and fire support students at a demonstration on Fort Bragg. They witnessed the team work and precision of crews and the fire power of the M109A6 Paladin, a self-propelled, 155mm howitzer.
Assistant adjutant generals, Army Brig. Gen. James Ernst, and Air Force Brig. Gen. Tony McMillan and 139th RTI Commander, Army Col. John Byrd along with staff and cadre visited a field artillery field training exercise. Both general officers were impressed with the amount of communication that takes place before a round can go down range.
Ernst said visiting the students training in a variety of military occupational skills gives senior leaders a good perspective of the full capabilities of our force.
“All of the instructors are knowledgeable and make students feel at ease,” said Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Craig, a readiness noncommissioned officer and cannon crew chief with the NCNG’s A Battery, 1-113th Field Artillery. “It has been great to see how everything works together and what everybody has to do.”
The students are not just from North Carolina either. The current class of 42 personnel consists of National Guardsmen from Kansas, Tennessee and Alabama, just to name a few. The school is getting such high marks, that it has been referred to as “Fort Sill – East.” Fort Sill is located in Oklahoma and is the home of field artillery. Fort Sill trains members of all branches and ranks on field artillery capabilities and operations. The moniker represents a huge amount of respect for what the 139th RTI has accomplished.
“Our students and instructors come from all over the country for this school,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Glenn, a field artillery senior instructor at the academy. “We have the ability to train Active Duty and Reserve/National Guard members on field artillery crew operations.”
Glenn said the instructors train on different types of field artillery pieces in order to have foundational knowledge in both self-propelled and towed artillery capabilities and operations.
Additionally, according to Glenn, with the active duty course lasting for 30-days and offered at Fort Sill, units save money by sending their Soldiers to Fort Bragg for an in-state school that only lasts 24-days.
In all, Glenn said, there are 14 different tasks that the students are trained on. Glenn said the field artillery instructors teach crew members howitzer laying procedures, a method to ensure synchronized massing of field artillery fires on a given target; mission tracking procedures, ammunition inspection and proper shell/fuse combinations as well as proper maintenance procedures for the howitzer.
These tasks are only the gunnery procedures however; fire support students learn how to call for fire, adjusting fire onto a single target and operation of the digital fire support system.
The two elements of field artillery, when taught properly, can be executed like a well choreographed dance; a veritable union of art and science mixed together to provide lethality from miles away.
Looking at the faces of the Soldiers as they listen to instructors and then execute their missions, it is clear that they are well-trained and ready to assume the responsibilities of experienced field artillerymen.
Still, the field artillery school is but one facet of the 139th RTI. The school earned accolades as an “Institution of Excellence” for their entire program. The school was evaluated by members of a TRADOC Accreditation Team who assessed the facility on organization and proponent functions, leadership and education, training and training support, personnel administration and overall facility worthiness.
TRADOC awards the “Institution of Excellence” to training facilities who receive an overall rating between 95 to 100%.
For their professionalism and for their dedication to exceeding the standard for producing some of the most competent and experienced combat arms troops in the nation, the 139th RTI received a 99.4% rating.
Of the 54 training institutions in the United States, only 32 share this distinction with North Carolina; a tribute to the staff and cadre of the 139th RTI.