Exercise helps I Corps prepare for operational environment in Iraq
October 24, 2008
By Spc. Aaron Carpenter
FORT LEWIS, Wash. - I Corps is right in the thick as Phase 5 of the mission rehearsal exercise Unified Endeavor is the final collective training event at the Battle Command Training Center to simulate the conditions of operating a Multinational Corps-Iraq in spring 2009.
"Essentially, this is to immerse us for two weeks in the operational environment as much as we can to make it look like Iraq in terms of the problems we are solving," Brig. Gen. Peter C. Bayer, I Corps chief of staff said.
Monday, less than one month after their deployment orders became official, the corps is engaged in a simulation from 18th Airborne Corps' point of view on a graduated time scale that supports an area that currently contains roughly 135,000 service members.
"We are already in close contact with them (XVIII Airborne Corps) on a daily basis, but what we will do is develop what we're calling a shadow battle rhythm," Beyer said.
He said this exercise is driven by simulations that use real-life data from Iraq with support from the Battle Training Command Program and Joint Forces Command.
Phase 5 has I Corps as the primary training audience after training with 25th Infantry Division seven weeks ago to prepare them for its support of the XVIII Airborne Corps.
"We are fully the training audience this time," he said, "so that means that we're not privy to any of the scripting and that kind of stuff; we're in the react-to-contact mode."
He said I Corps has to adapt to the updated scenario but one of the most significance changes since September is that it's nearly fully operational with over 800 Soldiers.
"We went from a corps headquarters that was one-third of what it is now that was focused in the Pacific region to a fully capable war fighting headquarters."
A full spectrum of operations included in the current MNC-I design include offense, defense and stability operations.
"Principally the tools we use are a full sweep of Army Battle Command Systems, software and hardware that enable us to have good battlefield and situational awareness of where friendly forces are," he said, "where things are flying in the sky and the advancements in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities."
He said that the mission set forth in the MRX identifies a changing scenario as part of the corps' mission to synchronize logistics, intelligence operations as well as legal and economic development in Iraq.
"With very few exceptions, we will have some software upgrades to some things that are different from what 18th Airborne Corps has and that's a continual process," he said, "We will probably field some capabilities while we're there because we are part of a evolutionary process for the Army that will continue to make us better."
In addition to shadowing key leaders from the 18th Airborne Corps, the BCTP and JFCOM have created a construct with role players for key leader engagements.
"I Corps has been with us planning for a year," Lt. Col. Gerald Benard, scenario planner for the BCTP said, "Specifically the engagements prepare the commander and staff to figure out how they are doing in fulfilling their engagement strategies in the operational environment."
Benard said his staff is built around identifying the full spectrum of operations in the areas of political, military, economic, social information and infrastructure.
"In FM (Field Manual) 3.07 it's pointed out that these are vital areas that we look into as we define and assess what's happening in theater.
FM 3.07 was published on Oct. 6 of this year and addresses military stability operations in the broader context of United States Government reconstruction and stabilization efforts. According to the manual, stability operations include a wide array of actors with various experiences, resources, mandates and capabilities.
To procure the objectives in FM 3.07, Benard said the battle scenario for the MRX relies heavily on primary experience.
"Folks coming out of theater are probably the best resource," he said.
Those involved in the training scenario include everyone from state department subject matter experts and redeployed senior leaders to former military in transition team chiefs and former Iraqi civilians.
"In one case we had an Iraqi role player who was the cousin of one of the governors, which was very interesting."
Bayer also spoke of the accurate level of fidelity and realism imposed during these MRXs.
"I will tell you that they're demanding and no matter how good you are originally or think you are going into it, it will expose you in areas for improvement."
He said the purpose of the training exercise is to significantly challenge the team to incur tremendous growth during Phase V that will tell the Army that I Corps is available for deployment.
"Our battle rhythm here will reflect what things we will do in country and we will increasingly spend more of our staff energy on preparing for the mission and solving Iraq problems."
That includes handing over responsibility for Fort Lewis operations to the rear detachment.
"We are investing an equal amount of energy in ensuring our families are capable in sustaining themselves as part of an Army community and a Pacific Northwest community," he said.
Spc. Aaron Carpenter is assigned to I Corps Public Affairs. This story appeared in Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.