By Mike Dearborn, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command International Army Programs DirectorateJuly 2, 2014
TEL AVIV, Israel -- Gen. David G. Perkins, commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, led a delegation to Israel to participate in the 23rd Future Battlefield Annual Talks, or FBAT, May 11-15, 2014.
Although TRADOC's relationship with the Israel Defense Forces began in 1973 following the Yom Kippur War, the FBAT was formally initiated in 1988 as an annual event conducted alternately between locations in the U.S. and Israel.
In addition to the TRADOC commanding general, who has served as U.S. head of delegation since 1990, this year's U.S. delegation also included Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Dailey, TRADOC command sergeant major; Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, Combined Arms Center commanding general; Maj. Gen. Bill Hix, TRADOC's deputy director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center and Thomas Greco, TRADOC G-2 deputy chief of staff. The delegation also included leadership from the Maneuver, Fires, Sustainment, Maneuver Support, Aviation, Intelligence and Mission Command Centers of Excellence and selected school commandants.
Maj. Gen. Guy Zur, chief of the IDF Ground Forces, served as the Israeli head of delegation.
During his visit, Perkins conducted terrain walks in the Golan Heights, near the Lebanon and Syrian borders. The highlight was the historical brief by retired Brig. Gen. Avigdor Kahalani, one of the IDF's most decorated heroes during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, who described the "Valley of Tears" tank battle against superior Syrian forces. Perkins noted the similar approaches both armies are pursuing in terms of anticipating the future operating environment and adapting and improvising in the face of asymmetric adversaries.
The IDF leaders also echoed during their briefings that these adversaries have not only learned to exploit tactical weakness, but operational and strategic weakness as well.
They see a combination of regular and irregular forces operating in complex terrain and leveraging innovative weapons and strategic communications to frustrate conventional armies. The human aspects of the operational environment give focus to leader development and mission command programs. Despite scope and scale, both armies will have to operate with fewer resources as they face similar challenges.
During discussions, Perkins defined the problem both armies have to address.
"How do you get better with fewer resources? And, if we have less, we need to identify what is essential and at what echelon we can accept the most risk," he added.
Other key events included a field visit to the Gaza Division and a recently discovered tunnel complex. According to IDF leaders, the Gaza experience reinforces the need to address the challenge of operating in complex urban terrain.
During the visit, the "counterpart days" included tailored itineraries for center of excellence commanders and commandants, where counterparts shared their army's respective approaches and lessons on a wide range of warfighting themes.
Perkins emphasized during the discussions that TRADOC values the partnership with IDF Ground Forces, and he believes the visit is valuable to the U.S. Army because it provides learning opportunities for commanders. For example, the lessons of the Yom Kippur War in 1973 helped shape thinking in doctrine and concepts then as the IDF's lessons learned from current conflicts continue to shape thinking today.
The culminating plenary session focused on terrorism and guerilla warfare. IDF Ground Forces highlighted lessons learned on terrorism during briefings from Dr. Boaz Ganor, deputy dean of the Lauder School of Government and Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center, and Maj. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, IDF deputy chief of staff. Maj. Gen. William Hix, deputy director for ARCIC, focused his discussion on the U.S. Army's Force 2025 and Beyond initiatives. The plenary session included mixed U.S. and IDF working group discussions on confronting combat challenges in 2025.
The session concluded with Perkins presenting the Meritorious Service Medal to Col. Amnon Meir for his service as the IDF liaison to TRADOC since 2011. Perkins highlighted Meir's role in facilitating meaningful discussions on complex issues between the armies during his tenure. Meir's replacement, Col. Guy Bitton, will arrive as the new IDF liaison officer to TRADOC in mid-July.
Perkins and Zur co-signed a memorandum codifying the next FBAT and the 2014-2015 CoE military-to-military agreed-to actions. The FBAT concluded with Perkins and Zur conducting wreath-laying ceremonies at the 9-11 Memorial and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.
Perkins said he looks forward to hosting his IDF Ground Forces counterpart in the U.S. next year for the 24th FBAT.