By Staff Sgt. Armando VasquezMay 14, 2019
YAKIMA TRAINING CENTER, Wash. - The future of the U.S. Army was on display April 23 to May 11, 2019, as more than 6,000 U.S. Soldiers and Marines from the Army's I Corps, 7th Infantry Division, 1st and 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Teams with the 2nd Infantry Division, 17th Field Artillery Brigade, the Marine Corps Forces Reserve's 4th Tank Battalion from 4th Marine Division, and six partner nations participated in the Joint Warfighting Assessment 19 exercise here and at Joint Base Lewis-McCord.
JWA 19 is the Army's premier modernization assessment; weaving material solutions, multi-domain operations, MDO formations, concepts and capabilities at echelon into the Army's largest joint, multinational, live, virtual and constructive exercise aligned to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command area of operations. JWA 19's mission is to provide critical insights and feedback on Army modernization efforts.
Besides allowing participating units to train to enhance their readiness while integrating and assessing innovative concepts and capabilities in a challenging operational environment, JWA 19 provides critical information to Joint Modernization Command's Field Experiments Division.
With warfighting systems and equipment becoming more complex, the U.S. Army continues to assess and evaluate warfighting concepts and capabilities that will support the modernization of future forces and help these forces win in a complex world.
"The Secretary of the Army was given a task to rapidly modernize the Army," said U.S. Army Col. Christopher Barnwell, chief, FED at the JMC. "We've been fighting an unsophisticated enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan for almost two decades and during that time .... our adversaries were able to close the gap, and in some cases exceed that gap, in several areas."
Consequently, JWA 19 is one of the annual joint-multinational live exercises that provide Barnwell and his team of system managers the opportunity to assess warfighting concepts, capabilities and formations and feed them to the JMC.
"We go out into the dirt, in the experiment ... and we'll talk to certain people about the assessment and see how some of the concept and capabilities are working," said U.S. Army Maj. Thomas Overmeyer, the deputy for Capabilities Integration Branch, FED at the JMC. "We collect the data, put that data into a cloud-based system and all that information is fed to analyst(s), who will write the reports (which enable U.S. Army leaders to make critical decisions about U.S. Army modernization)."
There are six modernization priorities for the U.S. Army, which were being assessed at JWA 19, said U.S. Army Capt. Alex Withenbury, a system manager at the JMC's FED. "Those priorities are long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicles, future vertical lift, air and missile defense, networking systems and Soldier lethality."
During a visit May 4, 2019 to YTC by several senior military and civilian leaders including U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Johnny K. Davis, commander, JMC; Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher D. Gunn, the top senior noncommissioned officer at the JMC; Dr. Catherine Dale, a senior advisor to the U.S. Army Futures Command commander; Raquel Ferrell Crowley, director for U.S. Senator Pat Murray's office; and Pamela Blechinger, director at The Research and Analysis Center, observed U.S. Soldiers and Marines conducting defensive and attack maneuvers while utilizing assault breacher vehicles with robotic operation capabilities, as well as the M1135 nuclear biological chemical reconnaissance vehicle and its first generation prototype, a rendered autonomous vehicle to breach enemy lines. The robotic complex-breach concept also played a big role in the exercise and the assessment of how robotics-equipped vehicles can help the Army become more modernized and lethal.
"RCBC exercise will further test the capabilities of new equipment," said Overmeyer. "It's designed to enhance existing intelligence, suppression, obscuration, and reduction capabilities for breach operations. This concept is safer, because during a breach, it is a high-casualty event. Let's let the robots get hit first before we send Soldiers in."
By observing and testing these concepts, JMC as a whole assess emerging concepts and capabilities for the U.S. Army's modernization effort.
"With direct observation from observing augmenters, we look at the exercise and evaluate the equipment being utilized," said Withenbury. "That information is entered into the online database and fed to the decision makers."
Taking the human element from harm's way during combat and accomplishing the mission is an attractive option for military leaders. JWA 19 and other smaller training exercises provide the information to system managers at JMC, which helps the U.S. Army through objective analysis, to develop a more modern and lethal force. In addition, JWA 19 provides a glimpse of technology that may be available to Soldiers in the not so distant future.
"A robot that does smoke, a robot that flies, a robot that gathers Intel, a robot that does chemical recon. It is that man, un-man theme," said Overmeyer. "We want to reach contact with a robot."
"This is where it all comes together," said Gen. John M. Murray, the commander of U.S. Army Futures Command. "All the good ideas don't mean much until you put them in the hands of the Soldiers and let them validate whether that idea is actually good or not, and how we can make them better."
The JMC is experimenting with unmanned tasks utilizing smart-system capabilities that remove the Soldier from high-risk zones and minimize the risk of casualties.