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Face of Defense: Trainer Develops Readiness, Career Goals Through Army Service

Aug. 16, 2017 | BY Army Master Sgt. Anthony L Taylor, First Army
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Observer coach/trainers, or OC/Ts, are soldiers certified to observe training exercises, coach and train individuals and units, and to provide input after exercises to further elevate unit readiness levels.

Army Capt. Gustavo Madrigal briefs Maj. Gen. Todd McCaffrey
Army Capt. Gustavo Madrigal, center, an observer coach/trainer team chief with 4th Cavalry Brigade, briefs Maj. Gen. Todd McCaffrey, commanding general of First Army Division West, on unit development during Combat Support Training Exercise 91-17-03, at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., July 18, 2017. Army photo by Master Sgt. Anthony L. Taylor
Army Capt. Gustavo Madrigal briefs Maj. Gen. Todd McCaffrey
OC/T develops readiness and his career goals through his Army service
Army Capt. Gustavo Madrigal, center, an observer coach/trainer team chief with 4th Cavalry Brigade, briefs Maj. Gen. Todd McCaffrey, commanding general of First Army Division West, on unit development during Combat Support Training Exercise 91-17-03, at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., July 18, 2017. Army photo by Master Sgt. Anthony L. Taylor
Photo By: Master Sgt. Anthony L Taylor
VIRIN: 170720-A-KL464-096

Army Capt. Gustavo Madrigal, the OC/T team chief of "Killer Team" and assigned to the 4th Cavalry Brigade at Fort Knox, Kentucky, is one of the OC/Ts who helped ensure readiness of the force during Combat Support Training Exercise 91-17-03 here recently.

"Working as an OC/T, I enjoy this job with 4th [Cavalry Brigade] and partnering with the Army Reserve and National Guard units," Madrigal said. "We have this unique ability to impart our knowledge and expertise, and try to assist the units to develop their training plans, as well as get a feel for how to deliberately plan for not only their exercises, but real-world missions."

Madrigal’s brigade is one of nine in First Army that partner with Army Reserve and National Guard units to coach and develop them for missions in the U.S. and overseas.

Training Mission

The Army Reserve unit that Madrigal and the 4th Cavalry MFTB are partnered with is an Army Early Response Force unit, a unit that has to remain trained and ready to rapidly deploy within weeks of being notified. Madrigal’s job is to ensure soldiers understand their training at the individual and collective levels in order to meet the unit’s mission essential task qualifications.

"We’ve been training on ‘Objective T’ criteria," Madrigal said, "and basically what it does is allows us to objectively assess units. So it gives commanders flexibility on how ultimately the [unit] is going to be rated, but it’s more deliberate. It is metric-based, and it increases our ability to make sure whatever rating we provide them for training readiness is more accurate."

Madrigal, who is single with no children, has served in the Army more than 10 years. He said he disconnects his work from his personal life, but views the relationships in a similar way.

"I don’t have any family that lives near me, but I maintain an open communication with them daily," Madrigal said. "But when I look at it, maintaining a deliberate partnership with an entire engineer brigade, that partnership is almost the same [as communicating with my family]. I have to do the same kind of things with that partnership. I have to call every other day with the commander, the [operations noncommissioned officer], and things like that, but I also have my team calling deliberately every single day. My [OC/Ts] are my eyes and ears for the entire organization, from the brigade down to the company level.

"You have to maintain [an] open dialogue, you have to maintain a relationship with them so you can build the trust that needs to be there for the relationship to be effective," Madrigal said.

Finding Fulfillment

Madrigal, who is technically inclined in engineering, said that he finds a lot of fulfillment in serving and contributing to the Army, and has a goal of reaching his military retirement. In his civilian capacity, he wants to become certified as a professional engineer and pursue a Project Management Professional license, which is a certification for an engineer project manager, to augment his engineering field. He also hopes to get married and eventually start a family, but realizes it’s necessary to balance family life and a career.

"[My civilian certification works] hand-in-hand with the Army career. You can get a job with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and things like that," he said, "but the job takes a lot. It’s a big toll on anybody. There [are] always sacrifices that you have to make: family, financial and what-have-you."

Madrigal grew up with family members with service backgrounds. His grandfather, on his mother’s side, is a Navy veteran who served in Korea in 1952 aboard a CVS aircraft carrier as an engineer. He also has uncles who retired from the Army and Navy. Although Madrigal’s passion is in engineering, his family’s history and influence helped him decide to begin his own military career.

"I had applied to some [University of California] schools. They are very expensive and my uncle had recommended the service academies. I had wanted to be a pilot, so I applied to the Air Force Academy initially, and then when I learned of the other academies, I applied to them as well," Madrigal said.

Army Capt. Gustavo Madrigal works with a Army Reservist
Army Capt. Gustavo Madrigal, right, an observer coach/trainer team chief with 4th Cavalry Brigade, works with a Army Reservist during Combat Support Training Exercise 91-17-03, at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., July 18, 2017. Army photo by Master Sgt. Anthony L. Taylor
Army Capt. Gustavo Madrigal works with a Army Reservist
OC/T develops readiness and his career goals through his Army service
Army Capt. Gustavo Madrigal, right, an observer coach/trainer team chief with 4th Cavalry Brigade, works with a Army Reservist during Combat Support Training Exercise 91-17-03, at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., July 18, 2017. Army photo by Master Sgt. Anthony L. Taylor
Photo By: Master Sgt. Anthony L Taylor
VIRIN: 170719-A-KL464-033

West Point

Madrigal ended up attending the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, studying aerospace engineering and history. Since graduation, he has served in the Army working in the engineering field.

"I was proud because I was the first one to go to an academy in my family. I actually have a cousin who is there now at West Point, and I’m looking forward to her graduation," he said. "West Point was an interesting experience. It is not like college, from what I hear. The workload is ridiculous. But, overall, it gave me the tools to be successful."

"They teach you how to be a sponge, to learn and question things," he said. "The school really gave me a good background on how to manage a lot of work in a short amount of time. I think that is the greatest tool it provided me."

Madrigal was commissioned in 2007 and then attended Basic Officer Leader Course II and Engineer Officer Basic Leader Course. His first duty assignment was at Fort Riley, Kansas, assigned to the 555th Engineer Brigade's 1st Engineer Battalion.

Assignments, Opportunities

"I deployed with them in 2009, just north of Tikrit, [Iraq]. I was the electronic warfare officer for the battalion," he said. "We provided the route-clearance packages for the [3rd Infantry] Division out of [Contingency Operating Base] Speicher.

"It was a nine-month deployment and was the first time that we as a group had deployed together," he said. "We had a very close-knit team. It was a family that deployed, to be quite honest."

Following the deployment, Madrigal served in South Korea as the facilities/contract construction management engineer for the 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command. In his personal time, he explored the country from Seoul to Pusan.

"I like to absorb culture," he said. "I lived on my own. I bought a car, [and] every now and then I would just take a drive and find something new."

After returning to the United States, Madrigal served with the 2nd Armored Brigade, at Fort Carson, Colorado, then with the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team as their brigade engineer working in facility management and space utilization.

"That was an interesting job because I used a lot of what I learned in Korea there," he said. "[We were] basically moving two brigades into 86 different properties: barracks, motor pools, headquarters buildings, and things like that. I was working on that for nine months."

Madrigal, a second-generation born U.S. citizen, has a younger brother who shares in his career interests.

Leaving a Mark

"When it came to engineering, per se, [my brother] is a mechanic, certified. He works on diesel tech and works on a farm fixing John Deere equipment," Madrigal said. "He’s very hands-on, where I am more methodical and theory-driven. He was more hands-on, always taking apart my toys. But it makes sense now."

Madrigal, who has been assigned to the 4th Cavalry MFTB for nearly 20 months, said he hopes to leave a residual effect of training from the partnership that his unit shares with reserve-component units.

"It’s such a huge role that we have, just at the brigade level, that I think it’s the most important job that I’ve had in my career," he said. "Because it has such a large effect on an organization that doesn’t even belong to us."

Studying one’s craft should be key in a soldier’s growth, Madrigal said.

"I think a lot of people look forward to promotions without looking at the rank that they’re already at, and trying to be the best at it. There’s a lot of things you can learn to better yourself," he said. "What you don’t want is to waste soldiers’ time. You want to gain as much training value as you can whenever you go to an exercise, whenever you’re doing [battle assembly] and for active duty, too. Come in with good mentality and stay motivated.

"Your mindset has such a positive effect on your daily outlook that you should want to be here. You should want to wear the uniform, and be the best at doing what you do."