Group Editor Marty Kauchak reports the US military services are expanding and fine-tuning their training readiness portfolios to better support a wider range of operational environments.
As US forces withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, and the nation’s foreign and security policies “pivot” to Asia, the services are changing their training focus for individuals, units and staffs.
The operational challenges and opportunities of this new era are again placing the department on a challenging, new training readiness path – much like the one on which the US military journeyed when it initiated the original Training Transformation program early last decade.
Beyond Counter Insurgency Training
The US Army appears to be the furthest along its training readiness vector for this new era.
In Army circles, the service is widely said to be “reinvigorating” its home station training as its soldiers return to the US. This effort moves the service beyond preparing its units in short operational cycles - typically 10 to 18 months – for deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. Under the rapidly waning wartime training construct, Army units and staffs primarily prepared to operate in a counter-insurgency environment through mission rehearsal exercises. Brigadier General Michael Lundy, the Deputy Commanding General of Combined Arms Center-Training, reflected on this closing operational era, and said the bulk of the training was “top driven” with theater requirements guiding the training scenarios for deploying forces at combat training centers (CTCs) and home station.
As the Army renews its emphasis on home station training and broadens the scope of events in a training cycle, other important service-level policies and enabling technologies are converging to help units better prepare for future missions.
In one policy development the service’s training programs are being shaped to support the recently issued Doctrine 2015. “This really focuses on the Army being able to do unified land operations. That is decisive action – which is almost simultaneous offense, defense and stability operations,” Lundy pointed out, but added, “This doesn’t mean we will be losing the lessons that we have learned from the last 10 or 11 years, because we have been doing similar simultaneous offense, defense and stability operations – but that has been in a very specific operational environment.”
In another effort to conform with Doctrine 2015 and other overarching DoD and service guidance, the Army is making the operational environment at CTCs and home station more challenging. In the evolving Decisive Action Training Environment program, hybrid, composite threats representing a mix of challenges from near-peer and regular force competitors, and less capable but still lethal insurgents, irregular forces and criminal bands are generated. “Giving commanders these very complex problem sets in a very dynamic training environment at both home station and the CTCs is what our focus is – creating an operational environment much, much more complex and dynamic,” Lundy explained.
In the maritime domain, the Navy will forward base 60 percent of its assets in the Pacific by 2020.
Gary Wentz, U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Modeling and Simulation and Joint Training Officer, observed this development and said the Navy has always had to train to a very versatile mission set. The Area of Responsibility that recently required significant training emphasis on counterinsurgency and stability operations still continues to require training in many other mission sets. He added, “The rebalance, or pivot to Asia does not relieve the Navy of having to retain training the capability to address missions from across the globe. As proven in the past, a ship and crew could return to its homeport after having sailed around the world and been on task to answer the unique challenges in every location assigned.”
After more than a decade of conducting air and ground operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US Marine Corps is ensuring its training programs emphasize core amphibious missions and their enabling warfare competencies at all operational levels.
The Bold Alligator series of operational and headquarters exercises and events for Atlantic fleet forces has been one of the Navy-Marine Corps’ key strategies to support this training priority. The 2013 Bold Alligator exercise completed this spring focused on bolstering staff and headquarters-level training readiness.
For its part the Air Force has allocated 60 percent of its overseas-based forces, including tactical aircraft and bomber forces from the continental United States, to the Asia-Pacific.
This May, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel pointed out “The Air Force is focusing a similar percentage of its space and cyber capabilities on the region. These assets enable us to capitalize on the Air Force’s inherent speed, range, and flexibility.”
As the US services’ training programs evolve in the post-Iraq and Afghanistan era, they appear to be expanding their focus on joint and combined training, and training at every operational echelon.
In what is likely to set the standard for partnering in the Pacific region in the post-Afghanistan and Iraq era, the second company-sized rotation of US Marines arrived this spring at Darwin’s Robertson Barracks in Australia. These deployments allow the Marines to strengthen ties with treaty ally Australia and other regional partners.
Eventually, 2,500 U.S. Marines will deploy to Australia each year.
The Marine Corps units are training on their own at defense facilities in the Northern Territory, and alongside their Australian counterparts and with regional allies and friendly nations’ forces.
Pacific Fleet’s Wentz provided another insight on the department’s continued focus on joint and combined training, noting that training at every Navy echelon requires sharing in realistic scenarios and environments with other services, joint commanders and partner nations. The training subject matter expert added, “The Joint Staff’s FY14 Combatant Commander Exercise, Engagement, and Training Transformation (CE2T2) initiative remains a critical resource that is relied on by services and joint commanders to enable training at tactical, operational, and strategic echelons among all services and partner nations.”
The LVC Nexus
The services’ journeys to post-Iraq and Afghanistan training programs are taking them down increasingly more challenging LVC paths – significantly benefiting the training audiences.
For its part, the Army is using learning technologies to increase the complexity and rigor of its training environments through its Integrated Training Environment.
In one instance, the rapidly evolving and underpinning Live, Virtual, Constructive-Integrating Architecture (LVC-IA) remains a system of systems, providing a net-centric linkage that collects, retrieves and exchanges data among existing Training Aids, Devices, Simulations, and Simulators (TADSS) and both joint and mission command systems.
Lundy emphasized that while the IA focuses on the LVC domains, the service expects to integrate serious gaming in LVC-IA version 2. “We’ve already fielded the integrating architecture in four locations – Forts Hood, Bliss and Campbell and we go to Korea later this summer,” said the Fort Leavenworth, Kansas-based training leader. During Lundy’s discussion with MS&T this May, he noted LVC-IA will enhance training at 18 global, service sites.
Aside from bolstering training in the new era through LVC-IA, the Army remains focused on having correlated, or common, terrain between systems. While every simulation or simulator has a different requirement for terrain, the Synthetic Environment (SE) Core Product Line Architecture Framework is now the baseline standard among the TADSS. “We want all the simulations to understand they have a common reference point of where everything is on the ground – a common view,” Lundy explained, allowing training products to “behave correctly” in 2- and 3-D settings.
In a closely related technology thrust, Lundy said the Army has made “huge progress” in developing SE Core. To help provide a “fair fight” in all the training domains through correlated terrain, the Army has completed its proof-of-principle and is building correlated terrain for its systems. Lundy recalled that “Every time we have an LVC-IA fielding, we correlate all of that terrain for that home station. So as we’re moving through, we’re building correlated terrain for each. That’s another huge step forward on how we are going to be able to increase the realism. We won’t need a man-in-the-loop to be able to translate grid coordinates between different systems. It will be automatically transparent to the user –and further reduces overhead.”
Outside of the material arena and in an effort to optimize the service’s intellectual capital, the still evolving Army Training Brain Operations Center (http://tboc.army.mil/) is developing the Training Brain Repository, a Web-based capability that gives exercise planners access to operational environment data, exercise content and training support packages. This capability is expected to enhance the commanders’ ability to plan his or her own units’ training program. “In the past 10 years training has really been driven by the theaters’ requirements. Now the commander owns his training. It’s not really a change because we were doing that before we went into combat. It’s really a reinvigoration of the role of the commander to be able to shape that he or she needs for their unit,” Lundy said.
The Navy’s Wentz also observed “The rebalance to Asia does mean that Navy will increasingly seek more flexibility, effectiveness, and productivity within LVC training capabilities. Evolving and increasing complex Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean scenarios and environments will still be required to be delivered to US Navy forces no matter what their homeport,” he said and continued, “Training to support the rebalance must be able to realistically challenge ship and submarine crews, aircrews, and Navy war fighting staffs alongside other services and joint forces, and with partner nations no matter where the Navy is operating.”
Eric Seeland, assigned to U.S. Fleet Forces Command’s Training, Plans & Resources office, added the primary role of LVC training for the Navy in this new era will ensure its sailors receive the most realistic training possible while allowing funding and time saved to be reallocated to other missions. “A component of this is that LVC will enable the Navy to train on our more advanced weapon systems, such as Navy Integrated Fires Control – Counter Air, Ballistic Missile Defense, and the F-35, whose capabilities cannot be trained to in a purely live environment,” he remarked.
And while the Air Force is committed to a long-term effort to increase live, virtual, and constructive operational training, the service’s leadership has increasingly emphasized that spectrum training also includes the availability and sustainability of air-to-air and air-to-ground training ranges – with an eye on Asia Pacific.
In a Readiness Posture hearing on Capitol Hill this April, senior service leaders noted many of the Air Force’s ranges are venues for large-scale joint and coalition training events, and are critical enablers for concepts like Air-Sea Battle. In FY14, the service is increasing funding to ensure sustainment of these crucial national assets, which elevate flying training effectiveness for individuals, units, and the entire joint team.
A hearing statement for the record further noted, “Sustainment is important, but ranges require investment as well, and budget pressures will further challenge our ability to provide the warfighter with realistic and relevant test and training ranges. Our ranges, having steadily evolved to meet the needs for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, now require substantial reinvestment to meet the demands of advanced sensors, full-spectrum warfare and a strategy rebalancing to the Pacific.”