YAKIMA TRAINING CENTER, Wash. - More than 6,000 Soldiers from 22 units across the Army and National Guard conducted Exercise Bayonet Focus 17-03, June 15 - 29, at the Yakima Training Center and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, to prepare Soldiers for the rigors of sustained land combat.The purpose of the exercise was to prepare 2-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team for their upcoming National Training Center rotation at Fort Irwin, California, and was the largest exercise the 7th Infantry Division had conducted since its reactivation in 2012.The training included force-on-force engagements using MILES gear, blank ammo and simulation ordinance; Soldiers acting as role-players in multiple roles such as civilians, detainees, and reporters; live-fire training with small arms, vehicle-mounted weapons, Apache helicopters and artillery."Our mission is deploy, fight and win decisively anywhere and in order to do that we have to focus on our decisive action and mission essential tasks," said Maj. Gen. Thomas James, commanding general of 7th Infantry Division. "The culminating training event is Bayonet Focus where we focus on the brigade combat team and of its attachments and subordinate units. We create an operational environment at Yakima Training Center that allows us to get after those mission essential tasks."It's a fully instrumented operational environment where we replicate the battlefields we have been fighting in to date and will continue to fight in the future," James added.There are several training objectives they built for Bayonet Focus, said James. The first one is the commanders at echelon have to drive the operations process, which is plan, prepare, execute, and constantly assess how operations are ongoing."We have the six war fighting functions that we have to synchronize," James explained. "The commander owns those, the staff enables the commander. We want to focus on balancing the art of command and making effective decisions with the science of control."The enhanced home station training [Bayonet Focus] mimicked the capability of a Combat Training Center at places such as Fort Irwin, California, and Fort Polk, Louisiana, according to Col. Sean Berg, the commander of the 196th Infantry Brigade."We are currently used as a ramp up for brigade combat teams that are on path to a CTC," Berg said when referring to the Joint Pacific Mission Readiness Capability based out of Fort Shafter, Hawaii. "But the implications for the Army really are for building readiness on the front side or extending readiness on the backside."The JPMRC also comes with an OCT package (Observer, Controller, Trainers), James said. The OCTs go down to the company and below and all the way up to the brigade commander. They are able to provide positive feedback to help the organization to get better.The JPMRC brings the core of an operations group, which is exercise planners, designers, control and higher command, said Berg. It allows you to work mission commands systems with the reality of fog and friction of force-on-force elements along with a hybrid threat that is well developed."This volume of training area [Yakima Training Center] we can then instrument with the towers we bring in from our system and link it into the home station training, which we have done with communication system, and give them multiple dilemmas at the same time," Berg added. "It really puts a stress on those teams and the down trace elements that they won't get anywhere else until they go to a CTC."Creating the dilemmas that a brigade organization has to deal with is critical, said James. They want an adaptive formation that can fight in an operational environment. The training scenarios have an enemy that gets out there and adjusts and adapts."Creating a thinking enemy requires a commander to get inside of the enemy's head and to be able to execute operations effectively," James said.Command Sgt. Maj. Aaron Spahl, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 1-2 SBCT, and the rest of the battalion, known as Sykes' Regulars, wore black fatigues and adorned their Stryker vehicles with the flags of a fictitious enemy to help distinguish their unit as a conventional enemy force."We imparted the importance of not underestimating a numerically inferior enemy and their ability to execute bold plans," Spahl said.The role of the opposing force, OPFOR, was to provide the 2-2 SBCT an opportunity to train against a peer to near-peer enemy, said Spahl. This creates a more realistic environment and prepares 2-2 SBCT for their upcoming National Training Center rotation.
It has been challenging, said Col. Jay Miseli, commander of 2-2 SBCT. The enemy within the training scenario sought every opportunity he had to defeat us and it has given us a lot of opportunities to think creatively about how to approach operations to achieve the brigade's objectives."It has been vital to how we think about the current state and the future state and the means to achieve that future state," Miseli continued. "By that I mean every time we took an action the enemy would respond. So there was an action and counter action interplay between our forces and the enemy. That forced us to asses all of our vulnerabilities, mitigate those and make sure we could attack his vulnerabilities as well.""Because Bayonet Focus has entailed the deployment of over 6,000 Soldiers, of which about 3,200 are Lancer Soldiers," Miseli said. "It has forced us to exercise every system we have, from our planning to our intelligence, to how we sustain food, water, ammunition and fuel of all these Soldiers over dozens of kilometers."From Miseli's perspective as the brigade commander, there were three things he wanted to accomplish: he wanted to see the organization, he wanted them to collectively understand how they fight and he wanted them to exercise every one of their systems over the type of terrain and environmental stressors that they would see in combat."There has been no better way we could execute this even and understand where we stand as a brigade and prepare for our National Training Center rotation," Miseli said. "Bayonet Focus has been a phenomenal training opportunity for us."