By Mr. Bryan Gatchell (Benning)January 18, 2018
FORT BENNING, Ga. (Jan. 11, 2018) -- A Maneuver Warfighter Conference began Jan. 9 with remarks from the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning, Georgia, commanding general.
Maj. Gen. Eric J. Wesley began the multi-day event with a video presentation on the current global threat environment ending with the question of whether the Army is ready to meet the current and future challenges.
One of the themes of the videos was the Army preparing for a war that they had just fought versus the war that they are likely to encounter. As an example, the Army developed its mounted cavalry ahead of World War II, when tank warfare eliminated the need for horses. The video then covered the current global environment, including the new capabilities of other militaries and world powers.
"The question is not whether you have prepared, and the question is not whether you are willing," said Wesley. "The question is whether our Army is prepared and ready for large-scale, ground combat against a peer threat. And that question we're going to look at throughout the week."
Wesley had four takeaways from the video. The first was the historical horror of the military not being able to meet a new type of threat. The second was how peers and near-peers have been able to meet and in some cases exceed the capabilities of the U.S. Army. The third takeaway for Wesley was the ability of the Army to adapt to meet new threats. The fourth point Wesley brought up was the ability of everyone in attendance at the conference to affect positive change for the Army.
"We are all members of the board of directors of the United States Army that is going to take us into the future," said Wesley. "If you've got the emotion and the conviction that you're part of that, then there is no other place than you had better be than this week here at Fort Benning, Georgia."
Wesley referenced a positive historical example of the Army foreseeing and adapting successfully to a new type of warfare. He started by talking about the Army in 1973 and 1974, when then Brig. Gen. Donn A. Starry performed a study of the Yom Kippur War, when a coalition of countries led by Egypt and Syria attacked Israel.
Starry's study then was the seed for developing the Army during a time of constrained budget following the Vietnam War. This resulted in the Air Land Battle doctrine, which served the Army successfully through the following decades, including in 1991 when it was employed as part of Operation Desert Storm in Iraq.
Wesley's point was that building the Army correctly for the next war involves starting with the concept rather than the capability, just like it had in 1973 and 1974.
"We find ourselves in a similar place today," said Wesley. "We have peers who have caught up to us and in many ways exceeded our capabilities."
Wesley went over a broad agenda for the week. Tuesday , Jan. 9 is about bringing the attendees up to date on the current operational environment and possible future operational environment.
"This future operational environment that I'm talking about is today in many ways," said Wesley.
The second two days are about getting into the specifics of the how to proceed.
He also talked about the deep work that will be taking place in the afternoon with breakout groups: The Maneuver Warrior Corners and the Work Groups. There will also be two simultaneous conferences where the leaders of the other centers of excellence -- aviation, mission command, maneuver support, fires, and more -- will coordinate on the plans resulting from this conference. There will also be a science board taking place so the technology the Army is pursuing is relevant to the concept the conference is working through.
Wesley concluded the opening remarks with what he hopes from attendees of the conference:
"I think that you're going to find that there's a significant amount of work to do, but you're in the right place to do it."