Friday, 16 July 2004

Realistic Training for Power Projection

Commentary: Realistic Training for Power Projection
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Commentary: Realistic Training for Power Projection

by Colonel Gary C. Howard, USAR, and Major Gregory K. Johnson, USAR

In the last decade, the U.S. military has transitioned from a forward-deployed force to one based on power projection from the continental United States. This change in strategy has put a premium on our ability to move soldiers and equipment quickly and to provide training to prepare them for deployment.
Deployment Simulations

The National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California, is the Army's premier training center for brigade- and battalion-sized units. For both Active Army and Reserve component units, moving the rotating units to the NTC has become a major driver of reception, staging, onward movement, and integration (RSO&I) training and other transportation operations. By combining sealift emergency deployment readiness exercises (SEDREs) with support of NTC rotations, the Army can manage its training dollars and get better quality training.

Seaport of debarkation operations, previously carried out notionally in the desert, now are conducted by transportation soldiers at sites in southern California. Pierside discharges at Port Hueneme and San Diego and in-stream discharges and logistics over the shore operations on the beaches at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton have added realism to the training. The Pacific Ocean also provides challenging sailing conditions, with routine sea states of 2 and 3 (wave heights of 2½ to 3 feet).

In September 2000, Exercise Turbo Patriot included the first successful joint logistics-over-the-shore (JLOTS) exercise conducted on the west coast in over 7 years. Over 1,100 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines replicated the deployment of a U.S. force into a degraded port by moving equipment of the 25th Infantry Division (Light) from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, over the beach at Camp Pendleton. The 7th Transportation Group (Composite) from Fort Eustis, Virginia, supervised the discharge from the USNS Seay, a large, medium-speed, roll-on-roll-off ship, onto Army Reserve landing craft, utility, 2000-class vessels and Navy barge ferries. Army Reserve M915 trucks and M872 trailers completed the move to the NTC. The operation also involved container discharge operations from the SS Grand Canyon State, a T-class auxiliary crane ship. The Navy's Amphibious Construction Battalion 1 simulated a fuel delivery from ship to shore. Water, instead of fuel, was delivered over the beach from the SS Chesapeake, a Maritime Pre-positioning Program tanker anchored a few miles offshore. Each of these operations used the latest Army and Navy equipment to add realism to the training.

Operation Native Atlas, held at Camp Pendleton in April, built on Exercise Turbo Patriot with an in-stream discharge of a slice of the 3d Infantry Division (Mechanized) from Fort Stewart, Georgia. Future exercises likely will add more elements of RSO&I, such as downloading equipment from an Army pre-positioning ship.
Power Projection Simulation

Supporting the units that rotate to the NTC has provided soldiers with outstanding training during the RSO&I phases of a deployment. We believe that similar training synergies exist for the upload phases of SEDRE and NTC rotations. The fact that the commanding general of the Army Forces Command has directed the Army to increase the number of SEDREs from two to four per year in fiscal year 2003 doubles the possible training opportunities next year. The upload phases of SEDRE and NTC rotations could provide excellent mission-essential training for 1,000 soldiers or more.

Training could occur both at the fort and at the port. At the fort, deployment support brigades already help combat units prepare for movement. Cargo transfer companies could load and tie down the equipment on railcars and truck trailers. Line-hauling a portion of the equipment to the port would provide excellent training for motor transport battalions, truck companies, trailer transfer points, and movement control and maintenance support units. Operations at the port would provide training for transportation terminal brigades, port security companies, and cargo documentation detachments.

In particular, we believe it is imperative that regular SEDREs test the ports on the west coast. Critical units deploy through west coast ports. For example, the 1st Corps and interim brigade combat teams (IBCTs) deploy from Fort Lewis, Washington, through Seattle, and the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment and Army National Guard enhanced brigades deploy from Fort Carson, Colorado, through Oakland, California. In spite of those facts, the upload phase of a SEDRE has not been exercised at a west coast port in years.

We also recommend that retrograde missions from NTC rotations be examined for training value. The retrograde phase offers large-scale load-ups especially well suited for training transportation terminal brigades and deployment support brigades. Currently, the equipment is transported back to home stations commercially. Of course, only a few years ago, the equipment was hauled by commercial transportation to the notional seaport of debarkation in the desert as well.

Combining SEDREs with NTC rotations has enhanced the training benefits greatly to both warfighters and support organizations while maximizing training dollars. It is critical that we continue to look for ways to enhance Active Army and Reserve component unit readiness by getting the most out of existing facilities and funded training. We believe this concept can be expanded to provide similar high-quality training to a variety of Active Army and Reserve component combat and combat service support units on the power-
projection half of the equation.

Colonel Gary C. Howard, USAR, commands the 1397th Transportation Terminal Brigade at Mare Island, California. His Army Reserve career has encompassed 10 units in 4 states. He is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College. He has a Ph.D. in biological sciences from Carnegie Mellon University and is a senior scientific editor for an independent biomedical research institute that is affiliated with the University of California.

Major Gregory K. Johnson, USAR, is the S3 of the 1397th Terminal Transportation Brigade at Mare Island, California. He has held significant positions in Army National Guard and Army Reserve units in Pennsylvania and California. He is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College. He has a B.S. degree in civil engineering from Bucknell University and an M.B.A. degree from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a real estate executive in Seattle, Washington.

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