Congressional staffers visit, experience Soldier life
Ashley Myers, a member of U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp’s staff, tries on one of Fort Riley’s newest pieces of training equipment March 27 at the post’s Mission Training Center. Myers was one of a dozen congressional staff members to visit post as part of the 22nd Annual Congressional Staffer Visit. Photo by: Mollie Miller, 1ST INF. DIV.
Story by: Mollie Miller
1ST INF. DIV. PUBLIC AFFAIRS
Fort Riley and 1st Infantry Division leaders presented congressional staffers with a "clear" picture of where the formation stands today and what it needs to be successful in the future during the 22nd annual Congressional Staffer visit March 27 to 28 at Fort Riley.
"We know what we need because we have trained ourselves during the past few years to see ourselves very clearly," said Lt. Col. Mike Ernst, 1st Inf. Div. chief of operations. "We are modernizing and maintaining our readiness in a financially challenged environment, and we are very proud of what we are doing."
The staffers, who hailed from the offices of U.S. Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran and U.S. Representatives Kevin Yoder, Mike Pompeo and Tim Huelskamp, traveled to Fort Riley to spend time getting up close and personal with several aspects of "Big Red One" Soldier life.
The two-day visit included a variety of briefings about everything from the post's budget, to how to maneuver as part of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle convoy. The visitors also were offered a tour of the new Irwin Army Community Hospital construction site and had the opportunity to visit with several of the division's senior leaders.
During a tour of the Fort Riley digital Mission Training Complex, the staffers learned the time Soldiers spend in the simulators does a great job to support the crawl and walk phase of the training cycle. Bill Raymann, chief of the training division, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, said Soldiers can make mistakes in the simulators that would cost millions in a field environment. By the time the Soldiers get to the more expensive live training, most are already to the "run" phase of the cycle. This cost saving opportunity, division leaders said, is vital in the current fiscal environment.
"Being here gives me a much better overall picture of Soldiers and this life," said Allison Reed, district representative for Huelskamp. "It helps me fill in the blanks so I can better understand how we can help our constituents."
Reed, a veteran of three staffer visits, said this year's visit offered her more opportunities for one-on-one conversations with Soldiers and civilians at Fort Riley. These conversations, she said, open connections that are vital in her work with military-connected constituents.
As both the staffers and Soldiers look forward to a future that will see a smaller force, smaller budgets and the potential for a new round of Base Realignment and Closure decisions, Fort Riley officials concluded the visit assuring representatives the post and Soldiers who call the Flint Hills home are ready for all of tomorrow's global missions.
"We have a different focus, a different mindset, but we are still training, and we are running the budget battles, too," said Col. Ben Solum, 1st Inf. Div. chief of staff. "We are fully invested in taking care of our Soldiers and their Families."