CG talks challenges facing maneuver force
September 18, 2013
By NICK DUKE
FORT BENNING, Ga., (Sept. 18, 2013) -- During the Maneuver Warfighter Conference last week, leaders from across the Army came together to exchange ideas and solutions for the challenges facing the maneuver force and improving the combat effectiveness of Army combat formations.
Throughout the conference, many key leaders took to the podium at Marshall Auditorium to address those in attendance.
On Sept. 10, Maneuver Center of Excellence commanding general Maj. Gen. H. R. McMaster kicked off the conference with his State of the Maneuver Force address.
With the future size of the Army still uncertain, McMaster said efforts to develop leaders who are adaptable will continue to be key to future success.
"Whatever that Army is in terms of size, we've got to be better," he said. "We have to have leaders who are able to accomplish the mission in increasingly complex environments against brutal, determined and adaptive enemies.
"Once we understand … what the shape and size of our force is going to be, the money we're going to have for modernization and research and development, it's our job as leaders to make the most out of that. We have to do our duty and provide our president and the joint force the best capabilities we can provide."
McMaster also talked about the lessons the maneuver force has learned during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan during the last 12 years. He said it is clear that now, more than ever, enemies are focusing on ways to take away the advantages the Army has.
"If you look at our recent combat experience, what we see are enemies who are going to try to isolate us from our advantages," he said. "What we see as well… are efforts to take away our advantages in mobility. These are roadside bombs, mines and air defense weapon systems. We also see long-range missiles and rockets as an emerging threat, as well as anti-tank missiles."
However, in addition to interfering with American capabilities, McMaster said enemies are also continuously adding new capabilities of their own.
"For any enemy that we fight, what we're basically seeing is an extension of capabilities previously associated with fielded forces of nation states into these non-state, terrorist and insurgent organizations," he said. "What that means for us is we've got to be able to conduct combined-arms operations. … War, in many ways, is a game of 'rock, scissors, paper.' If you just have a rock and the enemy has paper, you better have scissors ready to go. The key is having the Air Force, Navy, Marines and Army all working together in this game of 'rock, scissors, paper' to apply capabilities in combination in the context of what we're trying to achieve politically."
McMaster also spoke about the role the MCoE plays in helping to prepare the maneuver force for future armed conflict. He focused on four key areas -- leader development, training, doctrine and combat developments.
He said one of the keys for leader development is ensuring that leaders develop a lifelong habit of learning about the military profession.
In support of establishing effective learning habits, the MCoE recently instituted the Maneuver Self-Study Program, which provides Soldiers with recommended readings on a variety of topics, as well as online forums for professional discussion of the topics.
"The idea is that we use the self-study program to get leaders excited about learning about our profession on their own, but also connecting with each other," he said.
On the topic of training, McMaster said it is vital for the MCoE to continue to provide training that is as realistic as possible.
"We have to replicate the conditions of battle," he said. "We have to build into our training the things that happen in combat -- changing situations, bad information, casualties. We've got to rush things. We can't just plan an operation and then execute the operation as planned. That never happens. We've got to interject change."
He also said that training Soldiers to recognize the culture of a given environment and work within that culture will be a point of emphasis.
"Our forces, have always trained to interact with the enemy in the context of the terrain," McMaster said. "But today, and in the future, we have to visualize our military operations in the context of the enemy force, the terrain, civilian populations and these complex political, tribal and religious dynamics at the local level."
From a doctrinal standpoint, McMaster said there will be an increased focus on reconnaissance and security doctrine.
"This is something we've been emphasizing across the board," he said. "I think when we confronted these complex environments in Iraq and Afghanistan, many people concluded we needed to invent something new to deal with those environments. As a result, we turned away from some of the key elements of our doctrine that have stood the test of time. In particular, we lost focus on the fundamentals of reconnaissance and security."
Finally, on combat developments, McMaster said it is important that future developments find the correct balance of protection, mobility and firepower, rather than emphasizing protection at the expense of mobility and firepower.
"We're looking at how we make improvements … to make the right combination of mobility, protection and firepower across all of our formations."