By MAJ. Chance D. Schaffner, 164th REG RTI OIC/QA
The N.D. National Guard’s 164th Regional Training Institute (RTI-ND) at Camp Grafton Training Center, near Devils Lake, N.D., has not allowed the COVID 19 pandemic to slow its strategic march forward. In adapting to a changing environment, the RTI-ND has postured itself to supporting immediate and future training needs of the Army. As initial shock set into the nation in mid-March and classrooms went empty in May, the staff continued planning restart procedures to receive students in a safe manner.
During the pandemic, the instructors have kept their engineer technical skills sharp by tackling tasks that improved Camp Grafton Training Center in quality of life and training area development such as the Richie Bridge Park and constructing eight-plexs housing units. Instructors also used this time to review new courseware.
COVID Restart Plan:
RTI-ND worked with their TASS (Total Army School System) team representative to reschedule courses later in Fiscal Year 2020. Thirty-four classes were affected by the stop movement from 16 March to 30 June while five courses were conducted with N.D. Army Guard students in courses that were most needed. This allowed instructors to stay engaged and helped ensure Soldiers were current on their PME (Professional Military Education) and qualified in their MOS’s. Five other Courses were consolidated with follow on classes while seventeen courses were rescheduled for Fiscal Year 2020’s 4th quarter. Only six courses were actually cancelled. The RTI-ND has maintained a continuous operational cycle preparing for students throughout the Army, prepared for its formal TRADOC and Engineer Proponent’s Army Enterprise Accreditation Standards (AEAS) Evaluation, Command Maintenance Disciple Program (CMDP) Inspection, all while welcoming a new commander and commandant. In light of COVID-19, the 164th RTI-ND also instituted facility wide testing for all incoming students to ensure health and readiness remain at the forefront of operations. RTI-ND passed its TRADOC and Engineer Proponent Virtual Accreditation inspections with 98.4% and 99.5% grades, respectfully, and passed its CMDP with 97.5% rating.
Engineer Captains Career Course to support the US Army backlog:
The Department of Defense’s Stop Movement Order impacted Army courses to include the Reserve Engineer Captains Career Course (R-ECCC) taught at the U.S. Army Engineer School at Fort Leonard Wood. The Engineer School turned to the RTI-ND to support and assist in hosting the R-ECCC thanks to the RTI-ND’s past successes with this course in 2013-2014.
"Always ready to accept new missions demonstrates the RTI-ND’s agility to surge in support of Army requirements."
The Lines of Communication Bridge (LOC-B) Development:
LOC-B has been waiting to be officially adopted by the U.S. Army since it was initially proposed prior to the Global War on Terrorism. RTI-ND leaned forward in 2016 developing a bridge training park that allows units to train with all the bridges in the U.S. Army inventory.
What developed from an initial training location for the Bailey Bridge and Dry Support Bridge, was improved to allow Improved Ribbon Bridge (IRB) and Combat Bridge Boat water training, and the yet to be fielded Dry Gap Bridge with the construction of permanent abutments. This training area is the only location outside of the U.S. Army Engineer School at Fort Leonard Wood (FLW), Mo., with the capability of training all types of bridging units. All work up to this point has been completed by troop construction, utilized as a training aid for construction engineer Soldiers, saving taxpayers money.
In an effort to continually maintain relevance, the RTI-ND systematically immerses its students into real Operating Environments, that they will find themselves into, while providing a product that will support the Army and the NDARNG. The RTI-ND provided its students real world experience and expertise with assisting in the construction of eight-plex house units, which in turn increased RTI-ND student lodging capacity. Other examples are students surveying the RV park under construction and work on the emerging Wet Gap Bridge crossing for the LOC-B training site.
RTI-ND also increased its ability to train Technical Engineer Specialists (MOST 12T) by adding the 12T-level 30 and 40 courses to the curriculum.
The RTI-ND is the only Army school that conducts all three-level courses for Technical Engineer Supervisors. This doubles of training 12T Soldiers across the Army.
Conversion of training dollars into classroom upgrades:
Identified as deficient in creating a best learning environment for Soldiers, the pause of full-time classes at RTI-ND has created an opportunity to reallocate dollars that were originally projected in other areas and not used, RTI-ND seized the opportunity to eliminate this deficiency. Through contracting, RTI-ND has planned and designed the upgrade of all of its classrooms to meet TRADOC XXI Institutional requirements.
The RTI-ND has proved its resiliency by not allowing the COVID 19 pandemic to stop overall progress. Utilizing its position as an Engineer subject matter experts, or SME, the RTI-ND’s safe and effective restart of Institutional Operations is another reason RTI-ND is a leader among Army training institutions.
The RTI-ND was able reschedule 90% of the courses affected by COVID-19 while posturing itself for additional mission requirements in support of the Army. As a three-time recipient of the Institute of Excellence and the Army Superior Unit Award, RTI-ND will continue to adapt and move forward large in part due to its culture to continuously strive for excellence.
The RTI-ND's comprehensive restart plan was so innovative it has received requests from other institutions and organizations to help develop their own restart plans.