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Focus TF linking joint virtual training to ‘box’

Focus TF linking joint virtual training to ‘box’

Gary Sheftick

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series on the 17 Army focus areas. This one focuses on the “Combat Training Centers/Battle Command Training Program.”

WASHINGTON — Transformation at the Army’s combat training centers has accelerated to support the Global War on Terror while driving a cultural shift toward a campaign-quality Army with joint and expeditionary capabilities.

That is the message from BG Timothy D. Livsey, the deputy commanding general for training at the Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Livsey also heads up the Army’s CTC/BCTP Focus Area Task Force, which developed the implementation plan to change the Army’s capstone training program.

Lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan are being injected into CTC training scenarios in “almost near real time,” said Livsey. “If an IED (improvised explosive device) goes off over there or an ambush happens, we’re feeding that to trainers and to the units getting ready to deploy.”

This streamlined delivery of lessons learned, Livsey said, has an impact on all training rotations at the Army’s CTCs. The maneuver box or “dirt” CTCs include the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.; the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La.; and the Combat Maneuver Training Center at Hohenfels, Germany. These focus at the tactical maneuver brigade level. The Battle Command Training Program is also part of the CTC program, and provides simulation-assisted command post exercises for brigade and higher-level organizations.

The CTC training is full spectrum, Livsey said, meaning leaders and Soldiers train not only on offensive and defensive warfighting, but also stability operations–often concurrently.

The Army is also linking battles on the ground at its three maneuver CTCs with simulation-supported training at Fort Leavenworth, the Joint Warfighting Center in Suffolk, Va., and other simulation centers. This distributive training network was enabled by the recently established DoD Joint National Training Capability, or JNTC, Livsey said. He said this “realistic live-virtual-constructive training environment” will better prepare deploying units to operate as part of a joint, interagency, and multinational force as they face “unpredictable and highly adaptive enemies.”

The CTC/BCTP Focus Area Task Force was charged by Army Chief of Staff GEN Peter Schoomaker to “Rescope the CTC program to train in a joint context.”

Livsey said the task force includes representatives from all major commands, and ranks range from generals to junior observer-controllers at dirt CTCs. It also includes retirees who have participated in BCTP exercises, troops who recently returned from Iraq, and many Soldiers who submitted ideas through a collaborative Web site.

“The Web site was an enabler that saved time and kept us from locking people in a room for five weeks and throwing pizzas under the door,” according to Livsey.

“We work very closely with JFCOM [Joint Forces Command] in creating architectures that are joint,” Livsey said. For instance, during an NTC rotation, about 5,400 blue force soldiers pop up on a common operational picture screen at JFCOM headquarters in Suffolk.

“If you look at some of the databases we build for both constructive and virtual training, you’re going to see many similarities,” Livsey said. “We’re continuing to mature and advance, and the catalyst is the JNTC program,” emphasizing that the Joint National Training Capability is really a global capability.

As the CTC/BCTP Focus Area Task Force developed its implementation plan toward training in a joint context, Livsey said it was also influenced by other focus areas–specifically, Task Force Modularity.

The Combined Arms Center-Training is now developing training models for modular units and defining the specific effects that units must experience at the CTCs to understand the joint context in which they will be expected to fight. BG stated that a new Combined Arms Center for Training white paper on training in a joint context recognizes that other services need to be involved in both maneuver CTC and BCTP rotations, along with interagency and multinational participation. For example, the paper states that in the future, joint fires at the centers may be delivered by air, land, naval, special operations forces and even space assets, instead of primarily Air Force assets as is the case now.

“The synergies we get are very positive,” according to Livsey. He said that the synergy between simulations and live training in the CTCs will be used to train the Army’s new units of action and units of employment as divisions restructure upon returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We’re working now on an expansion of the CTCs’ responsibilities to help units reset faster, and get ready for the next deployment. Training in a multi-echelon manner is more important than ever.”

Up until now, the Battle Command Training Program has focused primarily on corps and division staffs (except for National Guard units) and the dirt CTCs have focused on brigade combat teams. “We’re actually collating the formerly separate levels of training responsibility–both BCTP and the dirt CTCs will have a piece of the training of the units of action,” Livsey said.

Another example of the cooperation between the three dirt CTCs and BCTP would be training a division staff through a BCTP Warfighter exercise at Fort Leavenworth while at the same time one of its UAs is rotating through the National Training Center, Livsey said. Action on the ground at NTC would be integrated into and correlated with the simulation-supported training–and vice versa, the BCTP forces would appear on the Army Battle Command System’s computer screens at NTC.

Because we’ll be a “plug and play” modular force in the future, commanders will have to adapt to working with unfamiliar units on short notice, Livsey said. For example, while training the unit of employment or UEx at Fort Stewart, Ga., an exercise could pull in units of action from other locations, such as Fort Campbell, Ky., or Fort Drum, N.Y.

Livsey would actually like to train each UA’s command and staff element through a simulation-supported BCTP CPX prior to a “dirt” rotation, which will train the entire unit. Resources will be the determining factor though, he said.

“There are no bad training ideas out there, but there’s a finite amount of dollars,” Livsey said. His staff is currently trying to procure resources for the CTCs six years out.

Livsey said commands in the future must be capable of conducting “simultaneous, full-spectrum operations.” For instance, one battalion in the brigade could be engaged in a full-intensity fight; another unit in the same brigade could be keeping lines of supply open; still another could be doing humanitarian support.

“In other words, you’ve got to be able to do it all,” Livsey said, adding that’s what must be replicated in training. He said units must leave CTC with the ability to face the full spectrum, especially to defeat an enemy in a major combat operation.

Mr. Sheftick, chief of the News Operations Branch (Office of the Chief of Public Affairs), edits the Army News Service and has oversight over the Army’s newspaper program, including regional workshops and Keith L. Ware journalism awards. He began his career as a beat reporter for the Kittanning Leader-Times and went on to serve in every branch of public affairs.

He worked community relations at Fort Sill, Okla.; media relations at First U.S. Army and command information at the Military District of Washington. In his current position, he has worked diligently to provide editors the latest news about Army programs and operations through ARNEWS.

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