By Lt. Col. Sonise LumbacaAugust 30, 2013
FORT A.P. HILL, Va.-Picture a small confined space beneath the earth's surface that potentially goes on for miles in complete darkness. The oxygen supply, height and distance of the space, and its physical layout are unknown. Operability of communications and equipment within the location is unknown. Enemy composition, disposition and strength are unknown. These are a few of the challenges that soldiers must consider when faced with conducting operations within a subterranean environment.
Members of the U.S. Army Asymmetric Warfare Group are looking at what it takes for soldiers to effectively operate within the subterranean environment. Their intermediate assessment is taking place at the Asymmetric Battle Lab located at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., where they have built two subterranean trainers that assist Soldiers in understanding how to effectively operate within this environment. In conjunction with the Army Capabilities Integration Center's Brigade Modernization Command, the Training Brain Operations Center, and other solution focused organizations, the AWG looks to take this initiative beyond the trainers and place it into doctrine.
"(The trainers are) a small part of a much larger project," said Capt. Rachel Sarvis, an engineer for the AWG's Concepts and Integration Squadron. It is the "crawl" phase of what the AWG is trying to accomplish, she added.
The AWG has built two types of trainers; a small above ground apparatus deemed the subterranean trainer and a mobile conex-size trainer that helps Soldiers work through the physical and mental hazards of confined spaces. Demonstrating the opportunities for home-station training, these tools are an important piece of the "big picture," Sarvis said. The AWG built the trainers with the assistance of Army engineers.
While the trainers are an important piece, the ultimate goal is to develop an Army Techniques Publication for subterranean warfare. This will also be accomplished through participation in a September Subterranean Operations Risk Reduction Exercise, and later, the Network Integration Evaluation 14.1 scheduled for November.
Another key component in developing Soldiers to operate within the subterranean environment is developing mental and physical adaptive attributes that will help them to operate within this challenging environment. Soldiers from Company B, 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division under BMC recently participated in the AWG's Asymmetric Warfare Adaptive Leader Program in preparation for the Risk Reduction Exercise that will use the subterranean and confined space trainers, along with more robust facilities at the Center for National Response in West Virginia.
"The subterranean problem set is something unique in that we've never attacked or looked at it before," said Capt. Jack Pinney, commander of Company B, 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. "So, in order to do that, AWALP will allow us to think in a different mindset and attack the problem a little bit differently than we may have under conventional means. So it's looking at the current (tactic, techniques and procedures) we have in place, our organic equipment and what the best way is to utilize that equipment to really accomplish the mission."
Company B first began working with the AWG on the subterranean problem set at Fort Bliss during the NIE 13.2 in July. There, the Soldiers operated in a repurposed Patriot Missile test complex where members of the AWG in conjunction with BMC, transformed it into a mock tunnel system that accurately replicated "future first battle" scenarios. The BMC and AWG will continue to work though scenarios built around the subterranean environment from now through the completion of NIE 14.1.
In addition to collaborating with BMC and the 1st Armored Division in this assessment, the AWG is working with the TBOC who is supporting the development of the threat scenario and description of the operational environment for these activities.
The intent is for the soldiers to develop their tactics for both subterranean and confined space training; to walk through, see the environment, look at how their equipment functions, and continually develop their TTPs so that when they move from the risk reduction exercise into NIE 14.1 in November they will have confidence and capabilities. The AWG can then capture the identified gaps, develop solutions and disseminate it to the Army through an ATP.
The AWG provides Operational Advisory and Solution Development support globally to the Army and Joint Force Commanders to enhance soldier survivability and combat effectiveness, and enable the defeat of current and emerging threats in support of Unified Land Operations.
It is headquartered out of Fort Meade, Md., and is the operational arm to the Training and Doctrine Command.