MS&T’s Walter F. Ullrich explores post Afghanistan training challenges with ACT’s ACOS Joint Education, Training and Exercise (JETE).

A major topic at ITEC 2014 was the emerging changes in military operations, shifting focus from operational engagement to operational preparedness. Brigadier General Dzintars Roga, Latvian Armed Forces, the Allied Command Transformation’s Assistant Chief of Staff Joint Education, Training and Exercise (JETE), spoke with MS&T’s Walter F. Ullrich about the way ahead.

MS&T: As Coalition Forces withdraw from Afghanistan member nations are changing their training focus for individuals, teams and staffs. Attention is returning to preparing for the full spectrum of contingencies. What role will Allied Command Transformation (ACT) play within that context?

Brigadier General Dzintars Roga: Allied Command Transformation focused on the future for NATO and its partners. Our role is to advise and prepare for the challenges ahead. Within ACT, we have different divisions leading various strands working on new coalition networks, strategic and political engagements, and of course, preparing our forces both NATO and national for any situation we can perceive. ACT provides to NATO leadership and especially to Allied Command Operations the vision to prepare and provide practical solutions to challenges set by our leaders and nations.

An example of our new approach is the recently conducted Trident Jaguar 14. This article 5 exercise (planned long before the Ukraine crisis), successfully tested the rapid response capabilities of our forces, providing a scenario which built upon our ability to deploy at short notice anywhere in the world and be prepared for any contingency. The lessons learned from that exercise are already being developed into the next iterations, to ensure we keep expanding and improving our capabilities.

MS&T: The Connected Forces Initiative was broadly discussed during ITEC 2014. Could you briefly explain what CFI means for training?

DR: The Connected Forces Initiative (CFI) is all about being ready and prepared. Its goal is to have modern, tightly connected forces that are properly equipped, trained and exercised by the year 2020. The key CFI objectives are to build and maintain NATO’s combat effectiveness through expanded education and training, increased exercises and better use of technology. This NATO mandate also includes continuing the excellent work and cooperation we have had with our partner nations, to ensure that as we move from an operational engagement to operational preparedness, we involve our partners fully and ensure in any future operations we are ready to work together effectively.

Exercises such as Trident Juncture 2015, will provide the linkage to train the new NATO Command Structure and NATO Force Structure to operate effectively together, as well as the mechanism to certify the NATO Response Force and our Joint Force Commands. It will be a comprehensive, high-intensity crisis response exercise based on a challenging scenario.

CFI is the biggest challenge we have faced in the education and training area, one that will ensure we evolve our structures and organisations as well as our use of education and training technology.

MS&T: One of the fundamental findings of some of the ITEC panels was that no one could predict future threats with any certainty. What should training under these circumstances look like? And what will JETE contribute?

DR: One part of our ongoing commitment is to ensure we meet the current demands of our leaders for preparation of our troops; another part is to include aspects in the training to ensure our soldiers can “think outside the box” and be ready for any unplanned situation they find themselves in. By ensuring they are totally familiar with their NATO operational systems and doctrine, we can then add unusual or challenging situations for which there may be no doctrine or policy. As the lead planner and coordinator of NATO exercises, JETE can ensure we prepare for all eventualities. By utilising simulation and distributed training, we can take our forces into situations virtually, creating scenarios where the consequences of an action can be discussed and solutions learned without the real life consequences. One must bear in mind, the balance between “simulated” and “live” training which brings its own challenges, but combined will produce an improved capability.

MS&T: In September 2012, Lieutenant General Karlheinz Viereck, then ACT’s Deputy Chief of Staff Joint Force Trainer, announced the start of NATO’S new Training Management System. Where is it today?

DR: The NATO Training Management System initiated by General Viereck in 2012 is well on track. Our individual training management system, the Electronic Individual Education & Training Programme (e-ITEP), has reached FOC, enabling NATO and national forces to look up all known online NATO and national courses to support their needs, as well as provide to management our future training needs and gaps. Our individual and collective training is now streamlined and co-ordinated to be more efficient and complementary, and the changes in our global approach to education and training have resulted in a stronger bond with national and NATO education and training centres. We still have a lot of work to do, but it links closely to our CFI goals so it will remain a priority for us to fully implement.