Units tap JCATS to measure training goals
April 25, 2012
FORT BENNING, Ga. (April 25, 2012) -- The Clarke Simulation Center on Harmony Church has a place where all units can practice mission command.
A multipurpose tool called Joint Combat and Tactical Simulation can be tailored around an "infinite number of scenarios" to prepare leaders in planning, creating staff positions, battle tracking and proper communication procedures before and after live training events, said George Ford, the facility's constructive simulations chief. Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below, or FBCB2, and Command Post of the Future capabilities are fully integrated into JCATS exercises.
"It's basically a staff trainer that's all computer-driven," he said. "It has multiple uses, and any number of scenarios can be plugged in. We let the Soldiers drive us as far as what they want to use it for."
Ford said the G-3 Simulations Training Division is trying to heighten awareness about what's available to all Maneuver Center of Excellence units, including National Guard and Reserve. JCATS also isn't limited to Infantry or Armor -- the free training sessions are offered to any element or course, regardless of size.
The systems are primarily aimed at developing the cognitive skills of battalion and company commanders, he said.
Because it's constructive-based, JCATS features a significant amount of flexibility, allowing leaders to get a "big-picture look" at a contingency area during the planning, coordination and management phases, said Bob Meacham, the mission command lead for CSC, one of the contractors that operates at the Clarke Simulation Center.
"Commanders have so many blocks to check in a plan," he said. "This will show the weaknesses of a plan, what you forgot about. It allows them to play the enemy's most likely course of action, or the most dangerous course of action. All of those big parts of a brigade plan can play out. You can really train a staff for how things should go during a plan, mission or operation."
Meacham said JCATS enables Soldiers to properly position their operational and support pieces on the battlefield for both routine and complex maneuvers. But the training tool has been used in a wide array of simulated settings.
Students from the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation rehearse drug raids and interdiction, he said. Mock drills can be set up for riot response, Homeland Security and any military mission. In 2008, officials arranged a "hostage crisis" for staff members of Lakewood Elementary School in Phenix City.
"(JCATS) doesn't have the 'gee-whiz' graphics that virtual simulation does. You're basically just looking down on a map," he said. "But we can do multiple exercises, on a large and small scale. It's an inexpensive way to sharpen your planning. You can learn how to coordinate and not have things out of place."
Recently, a group from the Maneuver Captains Career Course got an introduction to battalion staff planning. Wearing headsets and directing a Stryker force and heavy brigade combat team, the captains had to "seize" two objectives in Kosovo while executing mission command from a tactical operations center, one of 18 at the Clarke facility.
"Through simulation, you can calculate, correlate and identify what course of action works best," said Capt. Duncan Walker, a student on MCCC Team 3. "We come up with different choices to give to the battalion commander. You can simulate a battle plan and test out different ideas. … Nothing can replace actually being on site, but a lot of the leadership part is cerebral. At least you're training mentally for a new potential you might face."
Ford said the expanding role of simulators in training saves time and money while cutting down on Fort Benning's operational noise.
"It's very easy to go around the world in simulation," he said. "It's better to try it here first with zero ammo, zero fuel, zero possibility for loss of life … instead of driving off a cliff or getting someone shot. That way, when it really counts, you'll be smarter and more prepared, and know what not to do the next time."