“I expected things to go well when I got here, and I expected to see a good class,” Mendoza said, “but I didn’t expect to see it orchestrated this well. After talking to a lot of the leadership here, I learned that Indiana was a test bed for this class. They’ve been doing this a while and they have a lot of command support here and that is awesome. The’re doing it exactly the way the Department of the Army wanted it to be done.”
Students attending the class were equally impressed with what they found when they arrived at the RTA course. Sgt. Elan Taina, with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 152nd Cavalry Long Range Surveillance, said the course was nothing like he expected.
“I really thought this was going to be about all the stuff we always talk about when we do suicide awareness training,” Taina said. “It was the opposite. We learn to identify the reasons that soldiers stress in different situations and how those are often related to feelings that may seem obvious on the surface, but are often rooted to deeper beliefs and feelings that the soldiers themselves may not even be aware of.”
The growing emphasis on the RTA program across the country is indicative of a progressive change of priorities in regard to soldier readiness, said Indiana National Guard Chief of the Joint Staff Brig. Gen. Brian Copes.
“Before the war on terror, when it came time for annual training, our whole mentality was ‘train, train, train, train, train,’ and that’s what we would do,” Copes said. “We would go out in the field and train. And we thought that all that administrative and logistical stuff would just magically fix itself.”
Copes said one of the biggest challenges for the National Guard over the last dozen years has been to get out of the mindset of simply going to the field and training in warrior tasks to make soldiers ready for deployment. The challenge has evolved toward finding other ways to ensure that as an organization, the Indiana National Guard produces the most measurable state of readiness possible, and there is more to preparing a soldier for deployment than just making sure he’s familiar with weapons and tactics.