Effective Joint Training: Meeting the Challenges
Today's successful military operations are
joint operations. Senior military and civilian leaders recognize
the need for increased jointness at every level. Chief of Staff
of the Army General Peter J. Schoomaker stated the requirement for
"achieving joint interdependence" within the Army's culture,
structure, and operations because we do not fight alone.1
One way to establish joint interdependence and increase our collective
warfighting capability is through joint training.
For the last decade, joint training has been the responsibility
of combatant commanders with assistance from the U.S. Joint Forces
Command (USJFCOM). As the joint trainer, USJFCOM supports computer-driven,
operational-level exercises to train joint staff processes and procedures.
With the 2002 publication of the Strategic Plan for Transforming
DOD [Department of Defense] Training, USJFCOM's training mission
expanded to create a Joint National Training Capability (JNTC).2
JNTC: What It Is and Is Not
JNTC is not a place.3 It is a training
capability intended to increase the level and complexity of joint
training by integrating existing service training facilities with
joint and service training events and exercises.
JNTC is not one set of training devices or simulations; it is a
linkage of existing service training structures, simulations, and
systems inside a common joint framework. Its challenge is to solve
the many technical problems of linking separately designed service
simulations, virtual trainers, and existing live training opportunities
to provide a seamless picture via existing command and control,
communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance
(C4ISR) networks. As Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Readiness
Paul Mayberry notes, "A JNTC encompasses more than a set of
JNTC's purpose is to train soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines
in collective and individual joint tactical tasks. In the past,
joint training has focused on staff training at the joint task force
(JTF) and component levels (for example, the Joint Force Land Component
[JFLC]). JNTC's focus is to train tasks that require jointness to
the lowest level while supporting training for continued joint proficiency
at higher levels.
Envision an infantry brigade on a cold January morning at the National
Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California, as it prepares
to conduct an attack. The brigade is under the command and control
of a division headquarters located at Fort Hood, Texas, which is
also a training participant. In addition to the brigade at the NTC,
the division controls U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) forces at Twentynine
Palms, California, and other "constructive" BLUFOR [Blue
Force] ground forces in the "synthetic world of a computer
simulation" with tactical command posts at Fort Hood.
A JTF headquarters at Suffolk, Virginia, maintains electronic connectivity
with a "live maritime force," a carrier strike group off
the coast of California, and with its joint force air component
at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, controlling live and constructive
sorties. All participants, from the three-star JTF commander to
the NTC soldier performing surveillance, use the same scenario and
BLUFOR mission set. Observer-trainers from the services, USJFCOM,
and other specialists are scattered throughout the force.
The enemy is an adaptive, defending opposing force (OPFOR) equipped
with a wide range of weapons systems and capabilities located at
the NTC and Twentynine Palms arrayed in the computer simulation.
Each component and its respective training audiences understand
the OPFOR's capabilities and intent and the operational environment's
As the BLUFOR operation progresses, the NTC OPFOR sees an opportunity
to fix BLUFOR units through a demonstration with both military and
paramilitary forces while creating incidents against the BLUFOR
to affect the attitude of the local population. At the same time,
the OPFOR will conduct a strike by isolating and destroying a small
U.S. force to exploit the reaction to success as reflected by the
media. At the same time, the OPFOR hopes to successfully interdict
and ambush key BLUFOR lines of communication.
In BLUFOR brigade command posts, a common operating picture displays
a synthetic battlefield with annotated BLUFOR and OPFOR locations.
Intelligence from simulations, virtual unmanned aerial vehicles
(UAVs), and live intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance
(ISR) populate the automated data processing systems and provide
situational awareness. To the brigade commanders, all OPFOR units
are threats and, as with BLUFOR units, it is transparent which are
live and which are simulated.
As a BLUFOR company begins movement, the commander receives reports
from the battalion and units in contact. As the OPFOR's locations
become known, the company commander recognizes the danger of being
isolated and requests support. As rehearsed, the battalion requests
immediate joint close air support (JCAS). A section of two aircraft
from a carrier operating off the coast of California is available
for immediate support.5
In addition to the two inbound F/A18s, manned and unmanned ISR platforms
peer into the NTC to look for OPFOR air defenses and other high-payoff
targets. As the F/A18s approach, the fire support team halts suppression
of enemy air defenses. The joint terminal attack controller and
the battalion air liaison officer bring the aircraft in for attack.
At battalion and brigade headquarters, AH64s coordinate to provide
support, using live aircraft and virtual AH64 trainers.
As part of the normal battle rhythm, the commanding general at Fort
Hood updates the JTF commander and the joint force air component
commander (JFACC), sharing options and operating pictures. The JFACC
at Nellis provides input via a shared video teleconference. He notes
that virtual F16s in the computer simulation are attacking available
targets as nominated and approved, and he provides an update on
virtual F16 sorties flown against live targets at Twentynine Palms.
This training vignette is in many ways simplistic, but it illustrates
the potential power of future joint training. Linking and integrating
existing live-virtualsimulation training systems with joint and
service command and control (C2) and ISR systems in a seamless environment
within a JNTC construct offers each service opportunities to improve
multiechelon joint training and increases proficiency at joint tasks
under realistic conditions. In January 2004, the services and USJFCOM's
components formally implemented the JNTC concept with its first
Planning and conducting effective training is hard work and requires
detailed preparation by the training audience and the creation of
supporting training structures and systems. Effective training involves
allocating sufficient time, money, and personnel and, if it requires
joint training, allocations of each from each service involved.
Solving hardware and software issues for training systems and existing
C2 and ISR systems is hard and even more complex when linked to
separate service-designed training systems and simulations.
With competing training objectives and schedules, coordinating and
executing complex joint training has become even harder as we simultaneously
deploy and fight the Global War on Terrorism. Yet, to meet the joint
training transformation mandate and enhance our ability to operate
jointly, we must collectively meet several challenges to enable
the JNTC concept to be more than a bumper sticker. The following
are some thoughts for leaders and trainers to consider.
Purpose, Method, End State
What is the purpose of JNTC? If it is to train jointly, we do joint
training at every rotation at each of the combat training centers.
But senior leaders' evidence and junior leaders' feedback indicate
what we do is not enough.
Determining JNTC capabilities requires determining what we need
to train and at what level. For example, training JCAS might involve
various echelons and training methods. For example, do we need live
aircraft to attack targets with commands from a controller (universal
observer) against a live OPFOR arrayed on complex terrain with civilians
on the battlefield in close proximity to U.S. or coalition forces?
Do we need interaction between staffs from the battalion through
the JFACC to coordinate immediate and planned close air support
(CAS)? Do we need to exercise communications links and air tasking
order (ATO) procedures to the same fidelity as in wartime? If the
answer to these (and hundreds of other) questions is yes, we can
clearly identify training tasks and the purpose of JNTC-required
capabilities and determine an end state.6
Address Competing Title 10 Service
and Joint Training Requirements
Each service must maintain its competencies through readiness, training,
and modernization. Services often train alone; not all training
needs to be joint. But, warfare has become more joint and requires
increased competence on joint tasks at the tactical level. Success
depends on wiser leaders at all levels determining what does or
does not need to be jointly trained.
We must look for new ways to cooperatively increase jointness and
opportunities to exchange forces in exercises, especially low-density
assets and units. We must also recognize what has already been successfully
accomplished; for example, cooperation between the U.S. Army and
U.S. Air Force (USAF) within the Battle Command Training Program
(BCTP). During a BCTP warfighter rotation, interaction between Army
and USAF commanders and staffs takes place during each exercise.
This involves general officer exchanges with qualified Army and
USAF observer-trainers on air integration issues and quality feedback
via formal and informal after-action reviews (AARs).
No training program is perfect, but given competing training objectives
and available joint service participation, we need to recognize,
applaud, and build on these ongoing efforts. All services need to
better synchronize training events and exploit joint opportunities
whether they are designated as JNTC events or not.
Recognize and Deconflict Service Operations
and Personnel Tempo
Each service supports the Global War on Terrorism by providing trained
forces to component commanders around the world. Those not involved
in current operations are training core competencies in addition
to normal mission support and garrison operations. JNTC events should
not be an add-on to an already heavy schedule of deployments, exercises,
and other training. At the same time, service and joint exercise
planners cannot stiff-arm potential joint training opportunities
by refusing to modify existing exercise goals, objectives, tasks,
dates, participants, and locations.
Establish Specific Training Objectives
An old adage states, "If you don't know where you're going,
then any road will take you there." We must consider several
crucial questions to ensure joint training takes us where we want
to go. What are the approved exercise objectives based on a unit's
mission essential task list? What service and joint tasks are to
be trained? What training tools, devices, and simulations do we
need? Unless we answer the first two questions, we might establish
a superb training and exercise support structure that does not meet
training requirements and objectives.
Normally, more tasks exist than time available to train them, requiring
commanders and trainers to conduct a task triage to essentially
determine what tasks must be done to standard to satisfy the mission
and what resources are available to train the task. Prioritizing
joint tactical tasks to train is imperative.
Establish Measurable Performance Standards
For problems requiring a joint solution, what does "right"
look like? Have we done the analysis to determine what tasks, conditions,
and standards produce battlefield success? Specificity drives preexercise
training requirements and helps identify gaps in service and joint
doctrine, tactics, techniques, and procedures; the technologies
required to execute the task; and the training resources (devices,
simulations, and networks) to train to standard.
Each service's participation in developing baseline tasks, conditions,
and standards for JTT is imperative. Each service has a stake in
the effort. JFCOM management of JTT development as an ombudsman
can help develop the right JTTs in the right order to the appropriate
standard. With these JTTs, the services can determine the training
centers or exercises that best satisfy this training and request
and allocate resources to build training support structures.
Provide Realistic Training That Reflects
the Contemporary Operational Environment
Joint doctrine defines the operational environment as "the
composite of the conditions, circumstances, and influences that
affect the employment of military forces and bear on the decisions
of the unit commander." 7 Realistic
training means replicating the wartime conditions under which the
task is completed. Training that does not do so is often negative
training. Not every training opportunity can provide all the battlefield
conditions in sufficient fidelity. Trainers must identify those
to replicate during training.
The Joint Staff's Universal Joint Task List (UJTL) lists strategic,
theater/operational, and tactical joint tasks and references-related
service tasks for successful operations.8
The UJTL lists conditions-physical, military, and civil (political,
economic, and cultural). USJFCOM and the U.S. Army Training and
Doctrine Command's (TRADOC's) analysis of the contemporary operational
environment (COE) identifies other, more detailed variables commanders
Obtaining agreement on training conditions is a basic requirement
for effective training. JNTC event planning often entails balancing
the right conditions to provide service-training requirements with
available training resources. For example, an enemy ground OPFOR
equipped with air defenses, hiding inside an urban area and using
civilians as shields, might be used to train ground forces today,
but this set of conditions might not satisfy other service training
Identifying conditions to replicate or not and realistically replicating
them, obtaining consensus, and incorporating field input will ensure
we train the right tasks in the right way.
Field a Realistic, Uncooperative OPFOR
The enemy is a key operational-environment variable. Most trainers
agree that an OPFOR is essential to training but differ on what
constitutes a plausible, reasonable OPFOR. We must continue to develop
the characteristics of the OPFOR with necessary documentation that
will drive requirements and enhancements.
The OPFOR must be adaptive, learning, free thinking, and provide
challenges and rigor. Live OPFORs must be instrumented to provide
feedback and results. Constructive, virtual training simulations
and simulators should replicate the threat realistically.
If the OPFOR does not provide training rigor and replicate threat
capabilities in the COE, we are doing a disservice to the soldiers
we prepare for war. Fielding or replicating unrealistic OPFOR capabilities
Training Scenarios, Roads to War,
and the Operational Environment
Scenarios and roads to war must have sufficient detail to set conditions
for the training event. Exercise planners should avoid producing
complex roads to war and scenarios that do not answer the so-what
question and lack specific details to support staff and service
training. Jamming together separate service-produced scenarios produces
an incoherent story.
Conduct Detailed Event and Exercise
Success in training is in the details and the planning before training
begins. Cooperative, timely, efficient event planning is necessary
for success. Exercise planning should not consume staffs. Clear,
detailed training plans, coordinated among participants, must address
training objectives, training tasks, troop lists, conditions, and
other required resources. Planners must also clearly identify preexercise
training, safety requirements, and other details.
Create Training Devices that Directly
Training must enhance warfighting capabilities. A training environment
that seamlessly integrates live, virtual, and constructive training
systems will enhance both service and joint training. The Army,
at the CTCs, has been moving this way for years.
As we develop the JNTC support structure, we must prioritize, acquire,
and develop training devices and enhancements that directly support
specific JTTs and replicate battlefield conditions. We must balance
training enhancements against safety, security, costs, and risks.
Honestly Assess JTT Proficiency and
Developed joint tasks, conditions, and measurable standards (with
feedback through instrumentation or data analysis) allow us to assess
whether we have met the joint standard. Assisted by expert joint
qualified controllers-trainers and experts, unit-led AARs should
provide honest, frank assessments of how well units perform tasks.
In addition to addressing unit proficiency, AARs must identify shortfalls
in joint and service doctrine and equipment and the training support
structure that will enhance future joint training and effective
use of limited training funds.
Most training produces lessons learned, but lessons are only learned
when change occurs. AARs must determine how to fix problems, then
establish a system to make an agency or staff responsible for the
JTT proficiency assessments must be balanced against conditions.
For example, employing CAS or controlling fires is more complicated
at night in an urban area. For example, if aircraft operate only
during daylight in open desert terrain, trainers must determine
if the unit is trained to employ CAS under all conditions.
JNTC is About Warfighting
Warfighting is a team effort. Joint warfighting requires realistic
joint training at all levels. Given the current tempo for U.S. forces,
the goal of all training is to make them first-class.
Time is often the most valuable training commodity. Time requires
us to prioritize joint tasks and adapt existing service exercises
to meet joint training requirements.
The JNTC can enhance warfighting capabilities through ranges, simulations,
and sophisticated software and hardware and by providing the warfighter
the metrics to train tasks using measurable standards for success.
Many of the challenges addressed are being worked, but bear repeating,
given the continual turnover of key leaders, trainers, and staffs.
Whether JNTC existed or not, joint training makes fiscal and common
sense. More important, joint training to meet high standards ensures
mission accomplishment and saves our most valuable treasure-Soldiers,
Sailors, Airmen, and Marines on the battlefield.
WRITER'S NOTE: Observations and input for this article came from
various sources and personal visits and experiences at the CTCs.
The observations and opinions expressed in this article are my own
and do not reflect those of TRADOC or the U.S. Army.
1. Chief of Staff of the Army GEN Peter J. Schoomaker,
remarks at the Association of the U.S. Army Eisenhower Luncheon,
Washington, D.C., 7 October 2003, on-line at <www.army.mil/leaders/
CSA/speeches.htm>, accessed 3 November 2004. U.S. Department
of Defense (DOD), Strategic Plan for Transforming DOD Training (Washington,
DC: U.S. Government Printing Office [GPO], 1 March 2002).
2. The Joint Forces Command Joint Management
Office defines JNTC as "a cooperative collection of interoperable
training sites, nodes, and events that synthesizes Combatant Commander
and Service training requirements with appropriate 'joint context.'
Founded on the four pillars of (1) realistic combat training, (2)
an adaptive and credible opposing force, (3) common ground truth,
and (4) high quality feedback, the JNTC underpins a global, information
age joint national training capability [and] advances Defense Department
transformation efforts to include enabling multinational, interagency
and intergovernmental network-centric operations," Briefing,
Joint Management Office, JFCOM, Norfolk, Virginia, 13 August 2003.
3. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, Readiness,
Paul Mayberry, "Training Together, Fighting Together,"
Training and Simulation Journal (June-July 2003): 36-37.
4. The U.S. Air Force defines a sortie as
one aircraft in flight with normally two aircraft operating together.
The U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps define two aircraft as a section.
5. Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), Joint Publication
(JP) 3-09.3, Joint Tactics, Techniques and Procedures for Close
Air Support (Washington, DC: GPO, 3 September 2003).
6. JCS, JP 1-02, DOD Dictionary of Military
and Associated Terms (Washington, DC: GPO, 12 April 2001).
7. Joint Chiefs of Staff Manual (JCSM) 3500.04,
The Universal Joint Task List, ver. 2 (Washington, DC: GPO, 1996),
supplement to JCSM 3500.03, Joint Training Manual for the Armed
Forces of the United States (Washington, DC: GPO, September 1998).
8. Although this article was written in late
2003 and USJFCOM has conducted a handful of exercises, we are still
struggling with many of the challenges this article addresses.
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