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Army’s Switch to Larger-Scale Exercises Provides Less Predictability

Army's Switch to Larger-Scale

A U.S. and Romanian soldier look on during a combined arms live fire exercise in Cincu, Romania, in July 2017. The Army is looking at how it can expand its exercises worldwide while making them less predictable to exercise the element of surprise in large-scale operations.

The Army’s switch the signal from larger-scale exercises that happen on short-notice to become less predictable to possible adversaries, in accordance with Gen. Robert Abrams, the Army’s Forces Command commander.

“I think there is certainly probably an incredibly, very good chance that individuals, included in this new paradigm outlined within the National Defense Strategy,” will dsicover those exercises happening “not necessarily just to U.S. European Command but maybe to other combatant commands,” Abrams said with the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force Symposium.

The newly released National Defense Strategy, or NDS, requires the military to become strategically predictable to allies and partners and operationally unpredictable to potential adversaries, particularly China and Russia.

The NDS conveys thinking about a “dynamic force presence,” Abrams said, which changes the thinking about how forces are engaged globally.

“We want to reduce those rotational demands that don’t bring about building and sustaining readiness so that individuals can have units trained and ready, form of in a low crouch, ready to react to these worldwide contingencies,” he said.

For the last 16 or 17 years, as outlined by Abrams, the U.S. force posture has become “very predictable” featuring its rotational deployment model. The U.S. military has heel-to-toe rotations for the U.S. Central Command section of operations and also a rotational Brigade Combat Team to South Korea plus a rotational Combat Aviation Brigade and Armored BCT to Europe.

And while there’s an incredibly good chance the Army will shift to larger scale exercises having an component of surprise, it’s also possible exercises won’t be limited to only one combatant command. “It may involve forces from on COCOM, which are assigned to one COCOM, participating in another COCOM’s exercise,” Abrams said.

While there isn’t a plan to send more troops to Europe in 2019, it’s possible the Army might find an increase in troops deployed to the theater within the years following. What that will resemble remains to get seen.

But Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, then-U.S. Army Europe commander, said right before his retirement, how the service was considering larger deployments to Europe inside the coming years to evaluate being able to handle greater than a brigade’s price of troops and equipment, which may be needed should a true crisis arise.

Abrams said he believed the Army is already exercising, to a extent, the power for the Division headquarters sized-unit to deploy and use in Europe. The “Big Red One,” the very first Infantry Division from Fort Riley, Kansas, relieved the 4th Infantry Division from three years of operations over the Eastern flank of Europe in March.

The unit will probably be worked into upcoming major exercises in Europe, he was quoted saying.

But Abrams added, “I think what Gen. Hodges was gaining access to has not just more division headquarters, but to also have an overabundance of brigades, multiple brigades, so I think that is perhaps all inside the foreseeable future and I think it’s clearly aligned with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ desire to get strategically predictable with your allies and partners but operationally unpredictable.”

The Army has spent the last a few years stressing the importance of to be able to deploy equipment and troops through the continental United States into Europe rapidly and the service has already moved a full armored brigade pair of equipment and troops for the theater twice as part of a heel-to-toe rotation.

The ability to make major muscle movements like deploying a full ABCT to Europe atrophied during the wars inside the Middle East where the service may be primarily forward-based, this means troops fall in on equipment already in theater.

Army Materiel Command Commander Gen. Gus Perna said inside a separate interview at AUSA, that this Army has prioritized training to operational movements. In such a movement, a brigade gets alerted it will probably be going to a training event on the National Training Center, Europe or South Korea, for instance, in fact it is accountable for moving its equipment to some rail-head, loading it all onto a rail, synchronizing movement of kit to a port, loading it again onto a spead boat and then offloading at another port accompanied by moving equipment using road and rail to your final destination.

“Over the final several years, we have exponentially increased how much times we’ve done that,” Perna said, “35 times 36 months ago, around 55 times recently and numbers with this year are about 77, so we’ll roll that in the following year and I know already the increases are going to become more.”

The ramp up in these movements will permit the Army “to train, to construct muscle memory through soldiers, through leaders, through organizations to deploy our forces, but you have to be synchronized and integrated,” Perna said. “It’s got to be almost like the human body operating, it can’t just be the hand, can’t you should be the leg, can’t function as arm, it’s got to get a collective synergy all the way up from the motorpool towards the following fox hole.”

And the Army has learned a number of lessons in how to adapt its processes and procedures to get equipment into theater.

“We’ve learned quite a bit to be hones, a number of it as elementary as the best way to strap a vehicle to your rail car, that was a lost art, to the way you load ships, which ships we need to use, how we call forward ships, what capability we want about the far side and understanding that maybe those ports and airfields might be interdicted,” Perna said. “We’ve learned a good deal tactically all the way up through strategically. How do you manage the fleet, who manages it, that’s in command and control, and just how would they do this?”

AMC can be in charge of ensuring you can find Army Prepositioned Stocks positioned strategically around the globe and may be growing and modernizing the APS in Europe particularly.

There are offers to maintain the APS equipment active in Europe by practicing withdrawing it and ultizing it during exercises inside the long term.

“We are making excellent progress when it comes to equipping towards the requirement,” Perna said. “We feel great with that worldwide. We have really done great work on ensuring the gear is ready, turn they key, the engine switches on and also the soldiers really should have confidence it works.”

And along with ensuring the gear is ready, Perna’s command can also be ensuring that the correct equipment if positioned in the right theaters based around the threat environment and also the missions where troops are hoped for to engage.

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