In the lead-up to each year’s Joint Warfighting Assessment, the U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command leads academic sessions to help participating Soldiers understand the new concepts, capabilities and formations they will be using and assessing.
The first of these sessions for JWA 21 took place the first week of December with the 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colorado, and the multinational partners they will be working with during JWA 21. Because of COVID-19 precautions, the academics briefing took place on MS Teams. Col. Tobin Magsig, JMC’s commander, noted that the lessons being taught were like getting “an assignment in TRADOC, an assignment in Futures Command and an assignment in NATO, all compressed into one week.”
“This is a wonderful opportunity that our Army has given us to experiment and play in the future,” Magsig said during the opening session of the week. “We will get out of it what we put into it. We can go all in and learn some great lessons together, so let’s take advantage of this rare and special opportunity to train, learn, develop and fight in both the current fight and in the future fight.”
Magsig noted that though JWAs are typically a standalone exercise, JWA 21 is being bolted on to Pacific Sentry. Portions of JWA 21 will take place at Hawaii; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; and Suffolk, Virginia. JWA 21, scheduled for summer, is also a lead-in exercise to this fall’s Project Convergence 21.
Though the JWA academics session was held on MS Teams, Lt. Col. Billy VanCuren, integration chief in JMC’s Multi-Domain Operations Group section, traveled to Fort Carson to ensure any outstanding questions were answered. VanCuren said it was important to lay out early what JWA experimentation will be about and to start educating the 4th ID leaders about the new formations and capabilities they will be seeing.
“We identified from previous JWAs that it was essential to, early on, go to the participating units and let them know what JWAs are and what their role would be,” VanCuren said. “Because it’s not an NTC rotation. It’s a safe-to-fail environment. We’re here to experiment.”
In addition to the leadership of the 4th ID, various multinational partners participated in the academics sessions to prepare for their roles in JWA 21.
“This JWA is going to be special because 4th ID has three multinational partners, the Canadians, the Australians and the Britons,” VanCuren said. “The multinational partners provided a capabilities brief to the 4th ID staff and commander, and that was invaluable to help learn about their militaries’ capabilities.”
Because of their experience in JWA, the 4th ID will be leading the way on multinational interoperability and understanding the requirements of the Mission Partner Environment, VanCuren said. The MPE is the backbone that the Department of Defense is trying to establish to have continuous communication with our partner nations.
“MPE and multinational interoperability are going to be some of the biggest takeaways we are going to get out of JWA 21,” VanCuren said. “We will make our modernization objectives happen, for sure, but the bigger picture stuff will be the knowledge and expertise we gain from the 4th ID working with our multinational partners.”
Lt. Col. Shane Kelley, senior intelligence officer at the 4th ID, said he appreciated the early opportunity to learn about JWAs, as well as connect early with their multinational partners. He said he was impressed to find out about the many systems they would be assessing as part as JWA, as well as learning about new formations that are being created as part of the Multi-Domain Operations concept.
“Having this knowledge this far out, it sets us on a good path to be ready and take full advantage of the opportunity come this summer,” Kelley said. “The part I’m most intrigued about is working with our multinational partners. That’s always a good exercise on the intelligence side to make sure data is getting to where it needs to get.”
JMC’s efforts to educate the Soldiers participating in JWA 21 are a critical part of those Soldiers then assessing future concepts, capabilities and formations and passing that information back to the modernization enterprise. As Magsig emphasized at the end of the week, input from the operational Army and multinational partners is critical to prioritizing the best future capabilities and technologies, as well as identifying those that need further work.