FORT BENNING, Ga. - The Army's air assault division is focused on training itself for large-scale combat operations, a major departure from the focus of the last nearly two decades, its commander said here Sept. 12.

Maj. Gen. Brian E. Winski, commanding general, 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Division, discussed the division's direction during a session of the 2019 Maneuver Warfighter Conference at McGinnis-Wickam Hall. The conference, hosted by Fort Benning's Maneuver Center of Excellence, ran Sept. 10-12.

As part of that shift, the division - the only air assault division in the world - will establish a new battalion of CH-47 Chinook helicopters - traditionally used to haul equipment or troops - to be employed as an assault platform.

That will add to the division 36 Chinooks - a "very capable, powerful, high-capacity platform" for use "as an assault platform, which was not the case 15, 20 years ago," said Winski. "It was strictly external load, liftin,' resupply, that sort of thing. So that's going to give us a tremendous additional capacity."

In addition, said Winski, the division is emphasizing training exercises that hone its skills at large-scale combat operations.

The division, he said, is "moving in this direction. All our training scenarios are large-scale combat operations scenarios."

For example, he said, one of its attack helicopter battalions will deploy as a unit to support the 1st Armored Division in a major combat training exercise.

Meanwhile, he said, the division is awaiting decisions on various proposals that would further increase its combat power in ways that would involve its various air capabilities, including its use of the UH-60 Black Hawk and Ah-64 Apache helicopters, as well as its Chinooks.

The division is also working to sharpen its basic skills, an approach Winski summed up as "focus on the fundamentals, and master them."

Winski's presentation was followed by brief remarks by MCoE's commanding general, Maj. Gen. Gary M. Brito, who closed this year's conference. This year's theme was "The Brigade Combat Team: Readying for Large Scale Combat Operations."

Brito voiced thanks "to the entire team," that had a role in mounting the conference, an annual event that brings together military professionals and other experts for a close look at key issues related to the Army's maneuver force.

"We had some very rich discussion, some forward-thinking discussion, and questions, which is very important, which is getting at the readiness and lethality of the brigade combat teams, across all of the components, which is where we're going."

Brito thanked the MCoE staff who'd worked to make the conference a success, as well as his counterparts at various divisions, brigades and other components for the role they played in the conference.

"This would not have been successful without you," he said.

But Brito also reserved a special word for the junior noncommissioned officers and junior officers in the audience, telling the trends they'd heard discussed as to the Army's direction will apply to them.

"This is going to be yours," said Brito. "Whether we have new uniforms and new boots, a lot of what we talked about is going to be yours."