Sunday, December 23, 2007

Concurrent and Networked Training - a cure for Transformation

The return of the Training Cycle approach to training makes simplistic visual sense, as if the skills of each successive level of command from individual to Theatre were dependant upon the levels below. They are not. Each successive level of command consists of squad’s networks laterally with other squads of the same headquarters, and with other squads representing the chain of command, adjacent, and supporting commands.

The chatter between these networked squads is analogous to the flow of electrical charges through a nervous system, the nervous system that ties the eyes, ears, legs, stomach, heart, stomach and brain of an individual. The training cycle approach starts with the feet. BTMS, the Battalion Training Management System, stressed concurrent training using the whole body, but in successively more difficult and complex tasks.

The replication of the chatter between squads is the sum and substance of the command post exercise (CPX). A well designed CPX is hard to distinguish from actual operations if that chatter is presented in the form and through the proper medium to the squads representing the exercised unit including the fog of war.

The Field Training Exercise is where the squads interface with the mud, dust, rain and (simulated) blood of warfare. In the field, they still are linked with other squads at platoon, company, battalion as well as the fire support system, supply system, and the other vertical and horizontal networks of the whole organization. The link between the squad is the radio.

Training the squad in isolation from the even the simulation of the chatter is what we used to do in the Auld Days prior to Vietnam. Rifle squads were trained in isolation from the platoon until platoon training started. Back then the legacy of the Korean War was hill-centric. Each successive levels of training were oriented around finding squad sized hills, platoon sized hills, on up to battalion and brigade sized hills. Each level used the same maneuver; base of fire pinned down the presumed enemy always on the top of the hill, while the maneuver element hit the hill from the flank.

Unbeknownst to us, the Soviets built fire traps on the flanks of their forward elements to cut up our maneuver elements.

For the last twenty or so years, innovative training has married the CPX to the FTX by using a unit going through an exercise to be linked to an ongoing CPX. This is happening at Ft Hunter Ligget in combat training of support units, and was used in a previous lifetime in large scale logistics exercises that I participated in as a member of the 75th Division then known at “The MAC’. I worked in an intelligence capacity in division, corps, corps support command, area support command, and networked medical and MP units for instance. These large exercises involved joint and combined operations with participants from other services and other nations.

The downside of these large exercises is that the RC chain of command understood more of the nuts and bolts of large unit operations than the AC chain of command as the latter were focused on Brigade and below operations done in a vacuum. The chatter between elements of combat units in contact tends to be more vertically aligned with successive levels of command. The operations orders of next higher are the prime source of information. In the FTX mode, chatter with support units such as field artillery is often ignored to the detriment of the grunt on the ground later in actual combat without fire support, beans, bullets, gas and maintenance support.

The chatter in Combat Service Support and Combat Support (CSS and CS) tends to be networked in all directions. The intelligence requirements for an intelligence unit come as much from supported and lateral “squads” as from on high. Some support is organized as a vertically oriented structure as are the delivery of gas and ammo and the evacuation of the wounded. Some are service oriented on both an area and command basis as are medical and engineer units. The exact composition of a support element depends on the mix of needs of the supported commands which result in an ad hoc mix of vertically or horizontally integrated networks unified by a common doctrine and training.

The dark side of the Abrams Doctrine was that he intended to ensure that the RC was included in the next war by shifting the logistics to them. This, however, had a serious unintended side effect. The AC forgot logistics until operations in the Balkans brought to their attention that they couldn’t rely on the Log Fairies Four (the Gas Fairy, the Truck Fairy, the Ammo Fairy, and the Fixit Fairy) in the RW as they had in their training exercises. They were devastated that the detested Weekend Warrior, the Wannabe Warrior, would actually show up in uniform wearing leaves and eagles.

Then came the end of the large scale RC CPX, the Modularization of the Army, and the substitution of military CSS and CS units with Halliburton, Custer Battles, and Blackwater. While Modularization is sold as a simpler structure, it actually creates a more complex, tricky, and uncoordinated ad hoc approach to supporting the troops than the well trained and experienced RC CSS and CS command structure.

The 75th had to develop an interim Rear Area Operations doctrine in order to train CS and CSS units. This guidance was published in an annual document to support training as
Appendix J to that document. As it was the only guidance around after Vietnam was swept under the rug, it gained some credence to the point that a copy was republished by the Command and General Staff College with their logo and the title “Appendix J – Rear Area Combat Operations” also known as RACO.

We are still losing people in Iraq and Afghanistan to attacks on our lines of communication which attacks were principal tool we used to alter the flow of chatter in a logistic organization to cause them to exercise the military decision making process to meet changes in supply and demand for their services. Our clients included not only the logistics units, but included the Engineers, Military Police, and Rear Area Operations Centers (RAOC) that coordinated and protected the rear. These are the units that Rumsfeld left behind. The rest is recent history.

As an aside, the 75th also used Soviet Airborne divisions as a tool to alter the relation of supply and demand for logistics in a number of scenarios set in the Fulda and North German plains scenarios. I picked out landing zones and objectives on the Rhine and on critical terrain between the Rhine and Antwerp. Some AC colonel ridiculed our scenario, saying it was unrealistic.

I recently found out from the German Consul General that during the reunification of Germany, he was liaison to the departing Soviets and the East German military, he found out that the Soviets were going to use ten airborne divisions and on the same sites I had chosen.

Unfortunately, my bragging is no consolation for a conflict that would have ended already had the Army Reserve and National Guard had been deployed as trained and organized/

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