The Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) is leveraging both live and virtual environments to both train for the present and prepare for the future. MS&T’s Chuck Weirauch reports.

When al-Shabaab terrorists attacked the up-scale, modern Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya in September 2013, they provided a chilling reminder that non-traditional combat environments, such as this urban setting, are more likely to become the scenes of conflict in the 21st century. Developing training environments to meet such unconventional warfare challenges has become a major part of the mission for the US Army's Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).

AWG Training Center

One of the newest urban training environments can be found in the Army Asymmetric Warfare Group (AWG)'s Asymmetric Warfare Training Center (AWTC) at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia, which opened in January of this year. The AWG is under the command of TRADOC, and functions to provide assistance to the Army and Joint Task Force commanders in ways and means to counter the latest non-traditional threats emerging around the world. One of the AWG's first missions in 2003 was to serve as an advisory resource for US armed forces operating in Iraq on how to detect defeat improvised explosive devices (IEDs) Just recently the AWG held a Risk Reduction Exercise to help develop solutions to operations and training gaps for subterranean operations.

The $96 million, 300-acre AWTC features a modern urban complex that includes a five-story embassy, a bank, a school and an underground subway and train station that looks just like what one would find in nearby Washington, D.C. There is also a helicopter landing zone, a bridge, and other structures found in a typical urban environment.

The Center also has an indoor firing range, outdoor ranges, a headquarters complex and a small barracks, along with other supporting facilities. The urban structures can be configured to replicate those found in urban areas considered to be under active threat. It's a step beyond what might be found at earlier Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) training centers.

"The AWTC is simply not just another urban village or MOUT site," said Lt. Col. Justin Sapp, the AWG's operations officer. "The AWTC was developed from the ground up to provide a broad spectrum of realistic and practical environments to support solution development and training."

According to AWG Public Affairs Officer LTC Sonise Lumbaca, the training center supports the AWG's mission to identify capability gaps and provides a secure location for the replication of complex operational environments, as well as the development and assessment of Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTP). Solutions can range from adding a piece of equipment to a kit or developing tactics, techniques and procedures, she explained. The AWTC is also a venue that provides tailor-made training scenarios and environments for the AWG, the Army and Joint Forces, and other government organizations, Lumbaca added.

Col. John Petkosek, the AWG's Commander said that the training center will serve as an area “where the Army can be creative and come up with solutions to problems that we don't even know that we have yet”. “We are transitioning from an Army of execution, doing what we have had to do, to an Army of preparation to be ready for what comes next”, Petkosek emphasized. "That's where the importance of this facility really comes in."

According to the AWG sources, the AWTC has already been employed by a variety of "customers," including Special Operations Forces and the Department of State Security. The most recent military unit to use the Center for a live urban training exercise was the Army's 82nd Airborne Division. That Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise (EDRE) had a non-combatant evacuation operations (NEO) focus for which scenarios are to conduct an operation to evacuate US citizens from foreign countries either for security or natural disaster situations. The ERDE was conducted within the AWTC's Urban Complex.

Planning For The Future

While the AWG Training Center's Urban Complex provides a physical environment for tactics and procedures development as well as a training tool for today's potential urban conflicts, TRADOC is also using virtual environments to plan for battles on urban terrain in the future. The Command's Future Warfare Division is employing the TRADOC Future Simulation for Models and Simulation Division and its Models, Simulations and Excursions Branch to construct a model of a future mega-city to serve as the platform for a networked war game that will be conducted in August.

The goal of this exercise is to gain a better understanding and situational awareness of all of the elements that make up a mega-city, an urban environment that TRADOC considers to be a "living organism," according to Col. Kevin Felix, Chief of the TRADOC Future Warfare Division.

The Future Warfare Division monitors current and future trends worldwide in order to help create concepts for any future operations. According to Felix, a number of independent studies have looked at the idea of rapid urbanization. Trends indicate that soon more than 60 percent of the world's population will be living in some sort of mega-city urban environment. Mega-cities that are expected to develop within the 2025-to 2035 timeframe will have populations of more than ten million and be strategically situated on or near coastlines and near ports and airports.

Based on this independent research and TRADOC's own tracking of critical trends, the Command decided to look at the rapid urbanization trend as it transforms itself from an urban warfare scenario to a mega-city challenge, he explained.

Since any conflict that might take place in such a complex and population-dense environment is bound to be extremely difficult to counter, the Army may have to develop new concepts of warfare to be able to successfully engage an adversary in such conditions. While the US military has developed and executed concepts and doctrine and conducted operations in smaller urban areas, the mega-city environment may present many unique challenges beyond what has been considered under current operational concepts, tactics and procedures.

"It will cost us if us if we don't explore these areas now," Felix pointed out. "At the end of the day, this mega-city environment will be critical in terms of precision and stand-off weapons that may be less effective in this environment, for example; and that ability to be discriminate among targets will be very important and much more difficult to achieve. So we have to look at what are the technologies and capabilities that are required in this very, very difficult and complex human terrain, which is the real point of this effort. To really be effective here, you are going to have to have a greater situational awareness or understanding of all of the actors inside of this very complex living organism. This is the kind of real exploration we are doing out to 2035 to understand this and to be more prepared."

The TRADOC August virtual war game exercise is being conducted as a part of the Army Chief of Staff's annual Unified Quest Future Study Plan, which is designed to examine issues critical to current and future force development. The Future Quest is the Army's primary annual mechanism for exploring strategic and operational challenges and operations in the future environment.

"So this wargame that we are about to undertake is not about street-fighting and house-to -house combat," Felix emphasized. "This is about understanding the magnitude of the problem and what it means in terms of implications for the Army, for Strategic Landpower, and for the Joint Force. It's about the challenges as well as the opportunities that this presents."

" We will work towards some technologies that we think can enable mission success in this environment, Felix continued. "We have infused them in the game so that in the game we will get different operational approaches, as well as what may be different formations that could emerge through different concepts through the investment of some game-changer technologies that might enable these new operational approaches."

Bringing It Home

With the return from deployment of US Armed Forces personnel to their home station bases within the continental United States and abroad, and budgetary constraints affecting travel for live exercises and other training at Combat Training Centers (CTCs), the DoD is placing more emphasis on Home Station training. To help create training environments, including those for urban operations, at each major base, the Army is beginning to provide two new network technologies.

The first is the Army's Integrated Training Environment (ITE), which essentially serves as a means to link live, virtual and constructive training data elements together from different locations so that they can interact together in simulated battlefield training scenarios via the home base Mission Command System. This combined data can include information from MILES equipment at a live range, and virtual data from devices such as the Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer (AVCATT) and Close Combat Tactical Trainer (CCTT), with the Joint Conflict and Tactical Simulation (JCATS) system as the primary constructive element to project a 2D image of the battlefield environment for home base command staff.

The Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, KS, is working with TRADOC to further develop and implement the ITE. According to Lt. Col. Scott Gilman at the National Simulation Center at Fort Levenworth, ITE networks have already been fielded at seven Army bases, including six in the in the continental United States and one in South Korea, with the goal of connecting 18 sites in fiscal year 2017.

Via the ITE network, various bases can link together to bring their training elements into joint training exercises, such as a ground-air scenario with aviators employing AVCATTs at Fort Rucker and soldiers at Fort Campbell participating through CCTTs at that base, for example. When the ITE version 2.0 is completed in two years, it will provide the capability to add gaming technology and scenarios into the ITE network, Gilman pointed out.

The second new technology is the TRADOC Training Brain Operations Center (TBOC)'s Training Brain Repository, which will launch in August to help training exercise developers at home stations to create virtual environments for the exercises. The TBOC works to virtually replicate the latest kinds of diverse and unique combat environments that armed forces have been experiencing around the world so that they can be employed for training, leader development and education, along with concept and capabilities development.

When the Repository launches in August, all of the environmentally- related information that the TBOC has gathered will be available to home base training exercise developers via the ITE network. This data includes training scenarios developed by other commands and units, as well as terrain databases and other elements that make up such a virtual exercise environment.

"So this summer, it will be possible for exercise designers to obtain and integrate into the exercise such things as graphics that they won't have to create," said Tony Cerri, Director of the TBOC Data Transformation Lab. "All of the start data that would normally be done by dozens of base personnel will not have to be created to develop that exercise environment. Designers will be able to pick up other people's scenarios as well instead of having to create one."

The end goal of the Repository is to save home bases time and money in the development of virtual training exercises, Cerri said. The Army is trying to reduce the month it takes to do exercise preparation to just hours, he reported.

"The Repository approach also cuts back on the number of people that are required to develop a training exercise, which are costly but also time-consuming," Cerri summed up. "So with this approach we can save a lot of time. Now that units are having to do their own design and find all of the elements to put a training exercise together, the Training Brain Repository is hopefully going to help them to do this at Home Station."