Abrams led CAC-T through challenges
March 12, 2009
- CAC-T is a diverse, yet somewhat unknown entity, managing the Army's collective training requirements
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (March 12, 2009) - "The future is bright for the Combined Arms Center for Training and the Army," Brig. Gen. Robert Abrams, deputy commanding general of CAC-T, told the all-hands crowd March 9 before leaving Fort Leavenworth to command the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.
Abrams arrived at Fort Leavenworth in 2007 after serving as the executive officer to the commanding general, U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army. He quickly went to work helping the Chief of Staff of the Army change the Army's mindset toward training for full spectrum operations.
CAC-T is a diverse, yet somewhat unknown entity, quietly managing the Army's collective training requirements, and the identification, development and resourcing of programs to train units and leaders to conduct the full range of military operations.
As Abrams prepared to leave the Midwest, he looked back over his 19 months and recognized the contributions of the Soldiers, Department of the Army civilians and contractors who have produced products and set the conditions for the continued success of Army training.
"One should not measure the contributions to the war fight by your proximity to where triggers are pulled," Abrams said during one of his last opportunities to shed light on CAC-T and its enduring role in supporting Army readiness.
Soon after he arrived at CAC-T, he focused on the ongoing efforts of the Collective Training Directorate to develop the Army's newest training doctrine, Field Manual 7-0, Training for Full Spectrum Operations. The process of producing Army doctrine is a challenge because of the consensus building that must accompany the process. Many in uniform have fixed opinions on training, so the challenge was to not only update the manual to account for the Army's significant transformation since 2001, but also to verbalize its importance and emphasize its key points to leaders across the Army. Abrams not only guided it through to publication, but also highlighted the differences from the previous version and introduced the new ideas to Army leaders and the public. In December 2008, after almost two years of effort, the Army published FM 7-0.
The Army is now thinking differently about training because of the efforts of CAC-T under Abrams' guidance.
"All of you here in CAC-T are facilitating the Army's 'change between the ears' when it comes to the way we as an Army think of training as an institution," he said.
Abrams went on to attribute the success of the changes to doctrine, training support and products to the entire CAC-T staff and directorates and the outstanding comments, contributions and insights from operational Army leaders as well.
Under Abrams' guidance, the Battle Command Training Program was executing the concepts in FM 3-0, Operations, before the manual was even published. Having led a cavalry brigade combat team in Iraq, he understood what units would need as they prepared to deploy. Because the Army's focus had changed from divisions and corps to brigades, he also realized the need to develop a capability within BCTP to train not only brigade combat teams but also functional and multi-functional support brigades. He was the driving force behind standing up BCTP's Operations Groups Bravo, Sierra and Foxtrot to help commanders train those new brigades.
Abrams and the Combat Training Center Directorate set the conditions for reinforcing the concepts in FMs 3-0 and 7-0 at BCTP and the maneuver combat training centers. Even though the Army is deeply entrenched in irregular warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Chief of Staff of the Army realized that while it must maintain irregular warfare skills, the Army must also "rekindle" the skills to conduct full spectrum major combat operations. Abrams guided the development and integration of MCO "blueprints" - operational dilemmas for leaders - into the scenarios at the combat training centers.
"The blueprints were developed to ensure they were focused to provide the critical foundation to train on the most important tasks. They have the details and flexibility to replicate either IW or MCO operational themes or a mix of both," Col. Gary Brown, director of CTCD, said of Abrams' guidance.
One of the key areas of FM 7-0 that Abrams stressed was the need to sort through the myriad tasks units must perform to focus on the most important tasks. To help commanders and other leaders, the Army developed the concept of Core Mission Essential Task Lists. Abrams led the way on integrating the CMETL concept into FM 7-0 and guided the development of the tasks to the ultimate approval by the Army G3. For the past several years, the Army has focused on in-theater missions, which often did not include the tasks for which the unit had been designed. CMETL helps bring units back to the basics. Abrams played a pivotal role in convincing the Army that units must be capable of simultaneously conducting offense, defense and stability or civil support operations anywhere along the spectrum of conflict under any conditions. Changing the Army's mindset from the old way of thinking to full spectrum operations has not been easy and continues to be a significant challenge, but Abrams has made significant headway.
Under Abrams, CAC-T has been plowing new ground in the way the Army trains. The rapid development and integration of live, virtual and constructive training environments and gaming have become the key enablers in helping the Army to train realistically in today's full spectrum environment.
For example, under Abrams' watch, the Army has started fielding of Virtual Battle Space 2. Already used by the Marine Corps and other countries, this "first person shooter" game creates a realistic, 3-D operational environment for the players. It is inexpensive to field and update, can be issued to any Soldier because of an enterprise license, can import specific terrain, can be learned by anyone in about two hours, and allows for rapid changes to the game on the fly. It is the perfect training tool not only for those who grew up on games but also the most senior leaders.
The primary focus for VBS-2 is collective and multi-echelon training at small unit and individual levels. Gaming can be linked into the live, virtual and constructive training environments. In the semi-immersive environment of games, Soldiers, leaders and staffs have the ability to train on mission-critical tasks under varying conditions to develop agility, conduct mission rehearsals on the terrain that looks just like the area of operations, and conduct decision-making drills - among many other applications. Gaming has the potential to change Army training significantly. CAC-T is moving out with this capability 18 months earlier than expected and is currently fielding the hardware and software to units across the Army.
Abrams said he is proud to have continued and improved upon the initiatives started at CAC-T before his arrival, making the best with available resources and minimally manned organizations. He notes that the hard work, commitment and dedication of the CAC-T work force and the unfailing support of CAC, Training and Doctrine Command and the Department of the Army have made the difference in CAC-T's ability to deliver to the Army the right solutions, capabilities, and products at the right time.
Less than a week after Abrams departs Fort Leavenworth, the Army Training Network will launch as the "how to" to the doctrine detailed in FM 7-0. ATN is a Web site that will provide the Army with training lessons and techniques, examples of FM 7-0 concepts, solutions to training challenges, and collaborative capabilities. Abrams challenged all who attended the all-hands to contribute to the ATN to make it an even better resource.
Abrams commended the Collective Training Directorate efforts that helped the Digital Training Management System evolve into the Army's approved training management tool. As more leaders and trainers have seen its benefits, DTMS use has expanded rapidly across all three components.
"DTMS is a commercial-off-the-shelf training management application heavily developed to implement the concepts found in FM 7-1, Battle Focused Training. DTMS links unit training directly to combatant command requirements, provides a single source individual training record - enlistment to retirement - that automatically travels with Soldiers and DA civilians throughout their careers; integrates Web-based functions into a single system serving active and Reserve and National Guard components in peacetime and battlefield operations," said Col. David Blackburn, CTD director.
The success of the development of the Army's newest constructive simulation, One Semi-Automated Force or OneSAF, can be attributed to Abrams' ability to bring people to consensus agreement, yet he gives credit to the entire team. Because OneSAF must meet the requirements of not only the training community but also the analysis and experimentation communities, bringing all parties to a common understanding was a challenge.
Despite his responsibilities at Fort Leavenworth, he still stayed deeply involved in the air-ground initiatives of his Army Joint Support Team, located with the Air Force at Hurlburt Field, Fla., and Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Through Abrams' support and guidance, AJST has supported BCTP exercises, taught thousands of joint students about air-ground operations, and developed a concept plan to provide year-round Army planning support to the Air Force's Blue, Green, Red and Virtual Flag exercises.
Abrams was asked if he would be leaving a note in his desk for Col. Paul Funk, the new CAC-T leader who arrives in April.
"I intend to take a more 21st century approach and have a delayed delivery e-mail message waiting in his in box upon his arrival," Abrams said.
Abrams did not expound on what the message will say, but said he and Funk are not strangers - this is the fifth time that Funk has followed Abrams into a job. Abrams plans to give his friend some advice to take CAC-T to the next level and is confident that Funk will do just that.
Abrams emphasized that he and his family have enjoyed their time in Kansas and are going to miss the many professional Soldiers and civilians he has worked with and guided.
"Fort Leavenworth is a fantastic community and we will really miss the people," Abrams said.