By Chief Mass Communication Specialist Stephen Hickok
The joint biennial exercise ran from September 14-25, on Guam and around the Mariana Islands Range Complex, and included USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS America (LHA 6), USS New Orleans (LPD 18), USS Germantown (LSD 42), multiple surface ships and about 100 Navy, Air Force and Marine aircraft.
With the goal of integrating training in a blue-water environment, Valiant Shield enables real-world proficiency in the air, on land and cyberspace in response to a range of mission areas.
Participating in exercises such as Valiant Shield provides Reserve Sailors critical opportunities to hone their training for a high-end fight in the era of Great Power Competition.
“Our Reservists — Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine — have to be able to fall in on that,” Brig. Gen. Jeremy Sloane, Commander, 36th Wing at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam said. “This is a great opportunity for them to participate. They have this opportunity; they grow, they learn and then they’re able to seamlessly integrate into the force.”
A key comparison between active-duty and Reserve support in a real-world test of proficiency is the amount time Reservists are able to train and operate in their military roles. But the difference, according to Valiant Shield 2020 Joint Exercise Control Group director, Rear Adm. James Aiken, is almost imperceptible.
“In my mind, it’s been absolutely seamless,” Aiken said. "I see no difference at all in the Reservists and the active uniformed folks. We see these folks and they are ready to go and they really are value added. It’s an absolute privilege to serve with the Navy Reservists. They have demonstrated the highest sense of professionalism.”
Aiken participated in a frocking ceremony during the exercise for Reserve Sailors selected for advancement. Intelligence Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Kamlowsky, assigned to Navy Reserve Commander 7th Fleet Detachment Houston, Texas, impressed Aiken with how his rating expertise compares to his civilian career as a meat clerk.
“He does some of the most organized, prepared intelligence briefs each morning for me — scouring a number of sources,” Aiken said. “What was absolutely amazing to me is that here he is cutting meat one day and a couple days later he’s here providing top notch, top quality intelligence support — the same type of support I would see as part of the strike group.”
Kamlowsky, however, sees a clear similarity in the two seemingly polar opposites.
“You definitely learn that it’s the small details that matter most and can make the biggest difference,” Kamlowsky said. “Working in a meat department is somewhat of the same concept; you have to be precise when cutting even the small pieces of meat. Just as one ship can change the strategy when obtaining an objective, some cuts are only different from each other with the direction the texture or grain is facing.”
For Lt. John Graham, assigned to the Navy Reserve unit of Commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific, out of Alameda, California, the exercise provided a helpful inside-look at the unique ways each branch of the military communicates and views their own missions.
“I have been in several joint environments with my previous units,” Graham said. “Valiant Shield 2020 expanded on my base as this was the first joint exercise I have done with the Air Force. It was great learning new acronyms and how pilots strategize through the exercise events.”
Graham adds that it was beneficial gaining a better understanding of the overall direction of the Pacific Fleet, specifically being able to learn from other services about their own mission outlooks in regard to the region.
This year is the eighth iteration of Valiant Shield’s continued goal to promote the integration of joint forces. Each successive exercise has built on lessons learned from the previous training to enhance complementary capabilities and develop new tactics, techniques and procedures.
For participating Reserve Sailors, the exercise has met its objective.
“Being able to come out here and support Vigilant Shield 2020 has been a very rewarding experience,” said Intelligence Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Correa, assigned to Navy Reserve Commander 7th Fleet Detachment Riverside, California. “I've learned a lot about what my rate does in these exercises. I have been pushed out of my comfort zone but also mentored and taught along the way.”