FORT BENNING, Ga. (Sept. 11, 2018) - The Maneuver Warfighter Conference, an annual event hosted by the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning, Georgia, opened Sept. 11 with a focus on the theme "Sharpening Our Craft."

The annual Maneuver Warfighter Conference gathers senior leaders and subject matter experts from throughout the Army to elaborate and discuss issues relevant to the Army's Maneuver Force.

The event opened with an observation of the 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks and a moment of silence. A remembrance video played scenes from the attacks, which transitioned to the Global War on Terrorism and the training mission taking place at Fort Benning.

Maj. Gen. Gary M. Brito, commanding general of MCoE and Fort Benning, began the conference by saying the video served as a reminder of why the Army trains as hard as it does.

Brito continued by thanking the attendees - Army service members, allied military partners and industry representatives. He outlined the six Army modernization efforts and how they will be necessary to operate in battle in the future: long-range precision fires, the next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, the network, air and missile defense, and Soldier lethality. He said every Soldier of the Maneuver Force has a part in supporting these modernization strategies.

With that context, Brito explained the theme of "Sharpening Our Craft." In order to win in a battlespace that spans land, air, sea, space and cyberspace, and in order to improve within the Army's modernization effort, the Army must be effective at their craft as a Maneuver Force.

He said the next battle is likely to be "an away game" with no easy entry, that Army leaders at all levels should be skilled in combat as well as agile and adaptable in ambiguous and difficult environments, and that Army leaders must work jointly with other services and partners. Brito cited as examples of sharpening craft the one-station unit training extension that is currently being piloted at Fort Benning and a renewed focus on doctrine and basics.

Brito introduced the next presenter, Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

Townsend began by reflecting on 9/11 and how many Soldiers in the Army now would be too young to remember 9/11. He said it is useful to refocus on the Army's purpose and how the Army's practices of the 17 years that have elapsed since the attacks will not meet the needs of the future operational environment. Townsend laid out five near-term priorities that would aid the Army as it meets the demands of the future:
-- Lead a review of our Army's accessions enterprise. Develop a plan to improve it.
-- Improve the leader-to-led ratio and resourcing in our Initial Entry Training enterprise.
-- Help the Army to successfully stand up Army Futures Command.
-- Help the Army to field a new Combat Fitness Test and change the fitness culture of the force.
-- Accelerate our "Multi-Domain Operations" concept into doctrine and practice.

Ian Sullivan, the assistant TRADOC G2 (intelligence), discussed how the operational environment now through the year 2050 is likely to shift in shifting demographics, how megacities and the Arctic may become future battlefronts, how adversaries will increasingly contest the U.S. military in every domain, how adversaries will leverage hybrid conflict to avoid military encounters.

Sullivan pointed to 12 trends likely to change future warfare. They include robotics; power generation and storage; technology, engineering and manufacturing that delivers tailored, on-demand products; collective intelligence that uses social media platforms; physical and cognitive enhancements to human performance; human-computer interaction; cyberspace and space that have become warfighting domains; artificial intelligence that enables better decision-making; big data; climate change and resource competition; economic rebalancing and income disparity; and demographics and urbanization.

Sullivan discussed near-peer and other adversaries and finished his session by answering questions from the audience.

The final session of the morning was a panel discussion of brigade combat team training and readiness. The panel members included Brig. Gen. Donn Hill, the 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade commander at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and the former commander of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, at Fort Wainwright, Alaska; Col. J.A. Miseli, commander of the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; Col. Kendall Clarke, commander of the 3rd BCT, 10th Mountain Division, at Fort Polk, Louisiana; Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth R. Franco, 3rd BCT, 10th MD; Col. Marc Cloutier, commander of 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, at Fort Bliss, Texas; and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael L. Oliver, 3rd ABCT, 1st AD.

After a short introduction of themselves and their organizations, the panelists answered questions of the audience members dealing with BCT-related issues. The final question was what distinguishes a great company commander, for which the answers from the six panelists included caring about the team over the self; focusing on method over result; getting team members to balance personnel, equipment, training and Family readiness; understanding how the organization functions; and building relations with team members, peers, and commanders.

After the morning sessions, the participants moved to lunch and took part in Maneuver Warrior Corners to work more closely on individual issues in the afternoon.

In conjunction with the conference is the Doughboy Dinner at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Georgia, which honors Infantry Soldiers of the past. This year's recipients of the Doughboy Award are all local residents. To learn more about this year's Doughboy Dinner, visit the "Related Links" section on this page.

The Maneuver Warfighter Conference is scheduled to resume Sept. 12 with morning sessions followed by a continuation of Maneuver Warrior Corners followed by an Armor social at the Benning Club on post.