By Ms. Lacey Justinger (USAREUR)March 2, 2018
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- With more than 3,000 multinational military members moving around Grafenwoehr Training Area for Exercise Dynamic Front 18, the Soldiers who work in GTA range operations have their hands, heads and desks filled with maps, zones, schedules and regulations to ensure one thing: the realistic and safe training of all who come here.
Military exercises take place at 7th Army Training Command's Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels training areas throughout the year, and all activities -- including environmental and forestry, small arms, artillery, rockets and mortars, demolition and construction -- must be accounted and planned for both months in advance and on a daily basis.
"Our biggest part here is ensuring all fires and aviation assets are de-conflicted and ensuring that everything is safe," said Capt. Genti Sulaj, a field artillery officer at GTA range operations. "This involves good team play between us here at the maneuver branch and with safety to ensure all is done correctly and safely."
Sulaj explained that his team has been working for weeks to plan the scope and resources needed for the Dynamic Front fires mission, while also maximizing the ability to allow participating units to conduct scheme of maneuver and survivability moves.
Previously, range operations dictated to units training at GTA where and when they could fire, but now there are new procedures and internal systems in place that not only allow the units to safely fire but also liberally move around the ranges. This new freedom of mobility applies mainly to U.S. firing teams here for the exercise that concludes March 10.
"We're trying to bring back the flexibility to let the artillery train as they're actually going to fight in the real world and operate as they were designed to," said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Anderson, chief of GTA range operations. "They're professionals and that's what we expect the artillery to be able to do."
Instead of GTA range operations determining units' specific firing points, this new flexibility will allow the units to maneuver around GTA and pick the place they want to shoot from, then compute their own safety diagram while accounting for range operations' safety restrictions and guidelines.
"Let's be as permissive as we possibly can be in the training area, as long as the bottom line is being safe," Anderson said. "We have to be very precise in the synchronization of ensuring that units, as part of their processes, don't move into surface danger zones -- either of other units or into their own surface danger zones -- based off how they're going to maneuver on the range."
GTA range operations' internal coordination balances the needs of all military branches moving throughout and training on the ranges -- like infantry, engineer, armor and aviation. For example, if a mine clearing charge is deployed but doesn't go off, that will impact the exercise by restricting the maneuvering units from proceeding downrange. This behind-the-scenes communication ensures the accountability of all moving parts, like indirect or direct fires being de-conflicted with the rotary and fixed wing aircraft in play.
"We synchronize all those different activities so that we can conduct them simultaneously or as near simultaneously as possible as part of an exercise or other activities," said Anderson. "Even with Dynamic Front going on, we still have units doing gunnery and the other normal training. We don't stop doing all the other things we have to do every day."
That synchronization is the bottom line of GTA range operation's everyday training mission: to be as safe and authentic as possible.