FORT BLISS, Texas- Soldiers assigned to 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, participated in the inaugural Army Warfighting Assessment (AWA 17.1), a Soldier-led assessment held in the rigorous and realistic operational training environment found here and at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico from Oct. 17-28.
The 1st SFG (A) Commander, Col. Will Beaurpere, described several key training objectives his unit looks to achieve during AWA 17.1.
"The opportunities I see here are multi-fold, at the operational level, there is an opportunity to deploy my headquarters and exercise it as an O-6 level headquarters that is partnered in supporting the division here," Beaurpere said. "Secondly, there is a unique opportunity for some of my tactical elements to work on core tasks here in this environment and also work with their partner conventional force, in this case, a brigade."
Beaurpere was particularly interested in the opportunity to train with simulated forces on the battlefield.
"What is appealing about this exercise is the opportunity to showcase SOF effects with indigenous forces," Beaurpere said. "Specifically using indigenous forces to foment resistance behind enemy lines or perhaps to achieve shaping effects for conventional commanders."
AWA 17.1 also features joint and multinational participation as 5,000 military personnel from every component of the U.S. Army including National Guard and Reserve Soldiers with select elements from the Air Force, and Marine Corps, in addition to numerous multinational partners, assessed equipment and capabilities designed to modernize today's joint and combined force.
"Joint operations has probably been the most important aspect of our involvement in AWA 17.1," said Maj. Ben Hopper, 1st SFG Intelligence Officer. "We have six different nations (including the U.S.) that are operating here to include Australia, Great Britain, Denmark, Italy, and Canada. We've been able to integrate, almost seamlessly, in each of those organizations to help provide them intelligence and support their operations on the battlefield."
During AWA 17.1, 1st SFG (A) trained on conventional and unconventional warfare tactics in ways that can't be recreated in other simulated training environments.
"AWA gives SOF operators an opportunity to train on objectives that they can't do anywhere else," said Hopper. "For example, we conducted an operation to secure a chemical site last night. We were able to bring chemical detachment individuals on to that objective, and render safe (simulated) chemical munitions in a training environment. There are very few other places in the United States where we can conduct missions like that."
With an area of responsibility aligned with U.S. Pacific Command, 1st SFG (A)'s ability to integrate seamlessly with multinational forces is critical to its mission.
"First and foremost, we understand and we truly embrace that when we do fight, whether it's with our coalition partners, we won't do it alone," said Maj. Mike Swanger, Civil Affairs Planner. "We will always be engaged and embedded with not only our coalition partners, but our conventional partners as well."
Interoperability isn't the only training objective SOF achieves during combined operations with multinational partners.
"We don't just limit ourselves to interoperability, we also discuss interdependence and integration," said 1st SFG (A) Commander, Col. Will Beaurpere. "All three of those are being applied here at this exercise. We are completely nested and integrated in this exercise, which is exactly how we would fight in a contemporary operational environment."