Friday, March 18, 2016

The Army is Getting It

Here’s an Army item that directly pertains to the Navy.  The heads-up on this came from SNAFU blog (1).  A big thanks to SNAFU for this one! 

ComNavOps has long harped on the need for realistic training and it now appears that the Army is beginning to understand that and is conducting much more realistic exercises.  Realistic training is not just about live fire or smoke or simulated explosions.  It’s about making the entire exercise as realistic as possible.  For example, if you’re going to train for an amphibious assault, you don’t send a single ship to a point just offshore and then leisurely unload AAVs to an empty beach.  Instead, you gather an entire MEU/ARG, place them 50 nm offshore (that’s what our doctrine calls for) and send them ashore by all the means you would use in combat.  You throw in air support, naval gun support, combat engineering with real obstacles to clear, add in dummy mines, simulated casualties and medical evac, and an enemy opposing force which has helos and air cover.  Do that all in an electromagnetically contested environment with degraded GPS and networking and then you’ll have a realistic exercise that provides worthwhile training.

When have we ever exercised a multi-carrier offensive group?

When have we worked on fleet level operations?

So, what is the Army doing?  From SNAFU and Defense News websites, the Army is conducting no-notice, come as you are exercises.

“For example, the 82nd Airborne Division’s Global Response Force element conducted a no-notice exercise in February, jumping into Fort Hood, Texas, to conduct a weapons of mass destruction-elimination mission.” (2)

The Army is also taking the exercise all the way to the expected deployment location rather than just simulate movements.

“Three weeks ago, the Army alerted and then deployed an air defense artillery brigade to the Pacific Command theater of operations for a training exercise.” (2)

Here’s another example of conducting a realistic movement of equipment.

“In April, when one of the brigades from the 101st Airborne Division travels to Fort Polk, Louisiana, for its Joint Readiness Training Center rotation, instead of moving its vehicles over land as it normally would, it will have to ship its vehicles by sea, Donahue [Lt. Gen. Patrick Donahue, the deputy commander of US Army Forces Command] said.”
“This means moving 800 vehicles and 200 containers by rail to the port, then loading them onto a ship and sending them off to Port Arthur, Texas, Donahue said. The unit will then meet its equipment at Port Arthur and transport it to Fort Polk.”

“We’re executing the whole process from fort to port and see if we can make it work,” Donahue said.” (2)

“… to see if we can make it work.”  Isn’t that a horrifying statement?  The Army is supposed to be ready to do this kind of thing and we have a General wondering if we can make it work?  What has this guy, and all the rest of the Generals, been doing for the last few decades?  Talk about failing to do your duty!

All right, enough criticizing.  At least, the Army is waking up from its long slumber and starting to do something about its shortcomings.  That’s more than the Navy is doing.

Training also needs to be large scale, when appropriate.  We have high level Army commanders who have never exercised their complete units because our focus for the last couple of decades has been on small unit actions.  Unfortunately, there’s a world of difference between commanding a tank platoon and an entire division.  It’s not enough to run a single tank around a course and then assume that you can command the maneuvering and operations of an armored brigade.

To that end,

“The Army also is directing units to conduct brigade-level Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercises, or EDREs, he [Lt. Gen. Gustave Perna, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for logistics] said.

“We were skirting around the capability by conducting some company and battalion EDREs, but we’re going to up to ante with brigade EDREs,” Perna said.” (2)

Good for you, Army!  If you plan to fight with brigades then you need to exercise as brigades.

Yes, this kind of training costs more money but it’s a lot cheaper than arriving to a peer-level war unprepared and having your ass handed to you. 

The Navy needs to follow the Army’s example and begin realistic training starting with some of these:

  • When was the last time the Navy/Marines actually landed an entire MEU/MEB?
  • When was the last time the Navy exercised a multi-carrier force?
  • The Navy needs to exercise an entire landing through the MLP sea base (I bet it can’t be done!).
  • The Navy needs to conduct a live fire swarm test against the LCS.
  • The Navy needs to conduct a live fire saturation cruise missile attack against an Aegis cruiser.
  • When was the last time the Navy conducted fleet level anti-surface exercises?
  • When was the last time the Marines/Navy conducted a full scale port seizure exercise?
  • When was the last time the Navy conducted a surge exercise?

It’s pathetic what our training has devolved to but I salute the Army for starting to wake up to the possibility of full scale war and training for it. 



  1. Well done and extremely well said! Not to make this a circle jerk but this will be linked!

  2. The answer is that its more fun to pretend we are at war rather than prepare for one. All these small senseless deployments that go on for no real purpose tied up resources and wear out ships and crews. Most of the "presence" rationale is BS. For example, the Army runs around conducting small exercises with Nato, often with stupid airborne ops. The Marines need no more than one battalion deployed on Okinawa. Details: Spec Ops roams the world looking for harm to get in the way of.

  3. Well at least the US Army is making an attempt. It is better than nothing

  4. This is good news. Alt, I think its much better than just nothing, it indicates a real philosophical change (for the Army). We'll have to see if it sticks.

    Now, for the navy....Still stuck in the mire. I don't see any admiral saying 'Lets do a live fire on an Aegis with multiple inbound Coyote's and Harpoons' ever. They're happy to retire the Tico's, maybe even sink-ex 'em, but they sure as hell don't seem to want to risk finding out Aegis may need work.


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