FT. LEAVENWORTH, Kansas - The battle to liberate the people of Atropia rages with the outcome of the conflict uncertain.

The California Army National Guard's 40th Infantry Division leads the coalition forces which include remnants of the Atropian Army, United Kingdom, five additional Army National Guard brigades and one Army Reserve brigade to engage a determined invading oppressor seeking to overthrow the Atropian people's chosen form of government and occupy their land.

This epic battle in the fictitious country of Atropia played out for nine days on the largest stage the U.S. Army offers for command exercises at Fort Leavenworth's Mission Training Complex and is only the third and largest Warfighter conducted since 9/11. The training audience of 1,935 soldiers from seven states were matched by nearly 2,000 training support staff to ensure this is the most complex and holistic lethal and non-lethal mission command experience that commanders can gain just short of actual combat. This Warfighter was held June 3 - 16 and hosted by the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center's Mission Command Training Program (MCTP) here.

Another hallmark of Warfighter 13-4, is the opportunity for the first-ever Fires Brigade to join in the fight. This distinction goes to the 45th FiB, known as "Prairie Thunder" of the Oklahoma Army National Guard, headquartered in Enid, Okla.

Warfighter is a division level culminating training event representing a significant milestone for participating units in the Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN) cycle. It marks the passage from the "Ready" phase to the "Available" phase.

"This is the Super Bowl of exercises and it's the largest that most Guard and Reserve soldiers will ever see," according to First Army, Exercise Specialist, David Ruggere. First Army serves in a significant role in Warfighter and other exercises at the Mission Training Complex and other training sites like the National Training Center and the Joint Readiness Training Center.

First Army trains the entire depth of the Reserve Component modular force on more than 150 diverse mission requirements ranging from mission command, counter-insurgency, counter-IED, brigade combat teams, detainee operations, provincial reconstruction, agricultural development, combat aviation brigades, sustainment commands and security force operations to name a few.

"The MCTP provides a world-class and free-thinking OPFOR (Opposing Forces) and the war simulation allows the battle to be waged in a realistic give and take manner," Ruggere said. "The complexity and sophistication of the exercise is amazing."

The array of training support is dramatic in this configuration and allows for intense interaction with all lethal and non-lethal mission command staff sections for all units and at all times during the battle. Even the trainers are completely in a 24-hour per day operational mode.

HOW IT WORKS:

The battle is directed by both the training audience and the MCTP through realistic mission command information systems, doctrinal command and control procedures and battlefield communication systems.

The MTCP uses a Mission Scenario Events List (MSEL) to drive the battle and the training audiences tactical response to the MSEL injects creates the rolling battle between coalition forces and the opposing forces.

Fragmentary Orders (FRAGOs) and Requests for Information (RFIs) drive the training audiences' command and control. Units must maneuver their forces to the proper place on the battlefield and follow all proper rules of engagement for combat. Every action must follow doctrinal procedure and all of this is meticulously observed and documented by Observer Controller/Trainers (OC/Ts) and the training audiences' Senior Mentors.

Operations Group: For each unit in the training audience there is a cadre of OC/Ts that provide an OC/T for every single unit's mission command staff section to observe, coach, mentor and mirror the subject matter expertise of their counterparts. The OC/Ts are primarily permanent staff of MCTP and are among the most accomplished experts the Army has to offer in their branch and mission set.

Response Cell: This team serves in the role of Corps headquarters or "HiCom" (higher command). Playing this part are mission command staff from the division slated to attend the next Warfighter. It gives them a preview of what they can expect when it's their turn to lead the battle.

Work Cell: This is a small team pulled from the training audience to help assist in war simulation to further ensure that predetermined training tasks are accomplished in the exercise.

Exercise Control Group: This team provides all the external factors to the battle that are not directly related to unit hierarchy. This includes role players such as NGOs, news media, diplomats, coalition partners. This group also injects realistic scenarios which force the training audience to work through other complicating battlefield conditions like weather, civilians, terrorists and atrocities.

Senior Mentors: Each training audience unit commander is shadowed by either an actively serving or retired general officer. 40th ID commander, Brig. Gen. Keith D. Jones, gained the benefit of Gen. (Ret.) Charles C. Campbell as his senior mentor. Campbell served as the U.S. Army Forces Command commander before his retirement.

Joint Operations: Role players from the other armed service components provide support directly to both the training audiences and the response cells.

Additional subject matter experts are often brought in from throughout the Army to augment the MCTP staff for exercises of this scale.

Overseeing every aspect of the exercise and the battle is the Exercise Director. For Warfighter 13-4 that responsibility is held by Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps, Jr., Commanding General of First Army Division West. First Army is the executive agent to provide this training for Reserve Components and assisted in building the exercise task list to integrate the 40th Infantry Brigade's readiness objectives.

Phipps likes what he is seeing at this Warfighter. "What impresses me the most with all these respective units is their energy and willingness to learn," Phipps said. "They are staying strong and positive throughout this challenging exercise."

The importance and significance of the Warfighter exercise cannot be stressed enough. "Training mission command across all warfighter functions and mastering collaboration at this level is essential to battlefield success," Phipps said.

"Don't forget the basics. Everyone has to come into this with base level expertise and competence to make sure these commands and their respective commanders maximize the resources being provided to them here," Phipps advises and further states, "This is a culminating training event in ARFORGEN before these units enter the available pool… they must be ready."

The 40th ID commander feels the resources provided to sharpen his command have been exceptional and he recognizes the hundreds of individual initiatives making the experience possible. "Maj. Gen. Phipps was instrumental in helping us to work out the context of the exercise. First Army was able to work out the resource availability and other challenges with the National Guard Bureau to put this on," Jones said.

"There are truly many take-aways. Having the ability to fully use all of our command mechanisms and decision-making processes helps us to get better in every facet of the battle," Jones said. "Here you fully utilize all your parts and pieces into one. Our transition in synchronization of command and control systems is phenomenal and personal growth is fantastic," he said.

Jones is highly complementary toward the MCTP staff as well. "The MCTP is an extremely capable and knowledgeable group of subject matter experts across all areas of command and battle. They really are the true subject matter experts. The manner of their coaching technique is the positive contribution to the steep learning curve for an exercise like this," Jones concluded.

For the Observer Controller/Trainers the experience gained from Warfighter can be as fulfilling for their professional development as it is for the training audience. Chief Warrant Officer 3, Jason Lin, First Army Division West's 1-351st Aviation Battalion, 166th Aviation Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas, helped to augment the MCTP staff and gained valuable insight.

"The scale of the exercise is so enormous that you get to see a bigger picture and how the training objectives apply. I have a whole new appreciation for the other aspects of the different elements of the battlefield and how that effects different units' capabilities beyond the Combat Aviation Brigade's mission that I'm used to seeing," Lin said.

"The OC/T peer exchange was great because I could bring expertise on aviation to the other units' OC/Ts. It's also gratifying to observe the training audience improve the integration process between all levels of command and within the unit," Lin added. "This experience is going to help me for a long time and I look forward to bringing this knowledge back to Fort Hood."

Warfighter is a living laboratory for future commanders entering this grand stage of battle. Campbell provided the context for the training audience at their final after action review. "This is the most abundantly resourced training event the Army has to offer its commanders. This training is vital to the institution of the Army and for our nation," Campbell said.

Every aspect of the conflict fought by the 40th ID and the OPFOR will be closely studied for lessons learned that can enable the MCTP to improve the training experience as well as apply those lessons on a real battlefield.

Page last updated Wed June 26th, 2013 at 15:46