By Capt. Jean Marie Kratzer, New York Army National GuardOctober 5, 2017
FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. - More than 475 Soldiers of the New York Army National Guard's 42nd Infantry Division Headquarters started a war here Oct. 2, as the combat headquarters began a computer simulation war-game known as a Warfighter.
The troops are training alongside another famous combat unit based in New York, the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) from Fort Drum, N.Y. The two units are participating in the Warfighter, an electronic battle simulation that will test and evaluate the division staffs on all aspects of battlefield operations, communications, and logistics.
About 4,500 Soldiers are involved in all phases of the exercise.
The Warfighter is a two-week command post exercise that lets computer simulations and an enemy force role-player test the ability of commanders and their staffs to fight a modern battle.
The Soldiers participating in the large-scale battle simulation will manage the combat operations of more than 12,000 personnel in the computer simulation, with everything related to war fighting, including the plans and movements to gather intelligence on an enemy, maneuvering forces to the fight, providing medical evacuation, resupply and maintenance and replacement operations.
All of these staff functions play critical roles in full spectrum operations, a role that the 42nd Infantry Division trains and prepares for, said 42nd Infantry Division Chief of Staff Col. Michael Murphy.
Once the battle commences, operations run 24-hours a day, testing the effectiveness of synchronization within staff sections to operate continuously tracking battlefield reports and responding to changes on the computer battlefield.
But not all actions are generated in a computer simulation.
The warfighter exercise also provides real interactions with professional role players in the exercise, ranging from media reporters to local civilian leaders, non-governmental agencies, humanitarian relief groups and even criminal organizations, all meeting with and challenging the decisions and actions of the division's leadership and staff.
For a division headquarters with part-time Citizen Soldiers from across New York State, the first success in the exercise is simply bringing the team together, said Maj. Michael Rodriguez, an engineer officer and operations officer in the division's overnight battle staff.
"This type of training is invaluable," Rodriquez said. "As a National Guard unit, we hardly get to have the staff together in a scenario that's this life-like. It's great because we get to exercise and refine staff processes; that's what we we're here to do."
The division headquarters is directing command posts and Soldiers from a number of combat brigades, including the:
• The 27th Infantry Brigade from the New York Army National Guard
• The 50th Brigade from the New Jersey Army National Guard
• The 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 28th Division from Pennsylvania Army National Guard
• The 26th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade from Massachusetts Army National Guard
• The 142nd Field Artillery Brigade from the Arkansas Army National Guard
• The 28th Aviation Brigade from the Pennsylvania Army National Guard
"Training is complicated for the Guard," Rodriguez said. "We have to be selective in how and where we train. The value of the Warfighter is having everyone here."
For the senior noncommissioned officers and staff officers, the training is a validation of their functional areas and prepares them to better manage complex and challenging events, said Sgt. Maj. Matthew Gutzawiller, a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear staff specialist and night operations NCO supervisor.
"Warfighter provides an opportunity for the staff to come together," Gutzwiller said. "It provides a better understanding of how the staff process works. It builds team understanding and better prepares us for real -world missions."
The ability to run computer simulations for thousands of combat troops on a battlefield forces the variety of staff specialties to exercise battle drills and find ways to improve staff plans, said Gutzwiller, now training in his third Warfighter exercise in his career.
The simulation often injects small scenario incidents that if not addressed, grow more complex and challenging if not addressed by the division staff. Other times, events will present problems that a unit had not foreseen.
"This is the only opportunity to synchronize and validate our division staff standard operating procedures," Gutzwiller said.
The exercise will run through October 11.