FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) has distinguished itself for decades and continues to excel today by leading the XVIII Airborne Corps in training innovation.
Fort Campbell’s quarterly Training Support Services Innovation Forums are a driving force behind those innovations, and the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, or DPTMS, hosted this quarter’s meeting May 13 at Kinnard Mission Training Complex, or KMTC.
“I very much appreciate DPTMS doing this,” said Brig. Gen. Clair Gill, deputy commanding general-support, 101st Abn. Div., and forum chairperson. “One of the things that I love, and it should be this way in the Army, is this bottom-up refinement. Talk to the person who uses this capability, let them describe the problem and let’s implement the solution.”
Representatives from every major unit command, tenant organization, U.S. Army Garrison-Fort Campbell and DPTMS participated in the forum. They received updates on completed projects, shared their needs or concerns and weighed in on DPTMS’ future plans.
“We hold these forums because it provides a framework for information sharing and open collaboration with unit leaders,” said Scott Galbraith, chief of Training Integration, DPTMS. “As the customer, they’re experiencing these training resources firsthand. They have their own experiences and recognize their own gaps and inefficiences. These forums serve as an opportunity to come in the room and brainstorm with a diverse group.”
The innovation forums have inspired several completed projects and initiatives across Fort Campbell since they began in 2019, from upgrades to the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station, or CROWS, a virtual gunnery system, at Jones Training Support Center to additional ammunition handler’s courses through the Training Integration Branch. One of the forum’s major ongoing efforts could see significant improvements made to Range 28 in the coming years to facilitate modernization and mission readiness.
“What we would have at the end stage of this will be a multipurpose range complex and multipurpose training range on the same footprint, but with both capabilities,” said John Watson, chief, Training Division, DPTMS. “Construction would start in fiscal year 2024 and end in fiscal year 2027.”
DPTMS met with representatives from U.S. Army Forces Command, or FORSCOM, and the U.S. Department of the Army May 18 to further discuss the project, and individual units requested interim fixes for Range 28’s targets in the meantime. Range Branch is expected to place new hard targets in the impact area by the end of June.
Soldiers also can expect improved virtual training opportunities at KMTC thanks to DPTMS’ efforts to implement the Synthetic Training Environment, or STE.
“The first thing you will see from the STE right now is the Soldier Immersive Virtual Training System,” Watson said. “Essentially, that’s an augmented reality system we’re shooting for fiscal year 2024, which will allow you to train your troops at a virtual Range 28 or virtual Range 22 in your company area via the augmented reality system.”
Bringing division leaders into the conversation helps them provide the proper resources to execute those kinds of projects, said Col. Bo Dennis, division G3, 101st Abn. Div.
“To be able to provide first-class training, you need to be able to provide first-class facilities and the resources to enable Soldiers to train to achieve a ‘fight tonight’ mentality,” Dennis said. “That’s what this forum tries to get at, is to improve the facilities such that our Soldiers are getting the best training possible.”
The innovation forums also tie directly into the FORSCOM commander’s training guidance by allowing Soldiers and civilian employees to evaluate how new systems, munitions and equipment impact the installation, Galbraith said.
“We see an increase in their capability to train and their training progression,” he said. “We give them the resources to train efficiently and effectively for their next mission set, and so these events take that into consideration. We want to make sure resources are going to align with what their next mission’s looking like, so that’s one benefit we see from these.”
That means commanders often bring special operations Soldiers, master gunners and other subject matter experts to weigh in on mission-critical needs and information, further enhancing the forum’s impact.
“Look at the audience, and that tells the most powerful story,” Dennis said. “You have brigade operations officers, battalion commanders and brigade commanders in addition to division leadership all collaborating in one room for the better part of 90 minutes. Given our schedules, that’s not an easy thing to do, but because of the importance we come together to do this. I was very pleased with the meeting and the outcomes.”