First Army recently conducted a validation exercise for an ARNG MEB HQs deploying in support of a USAFRICOM/CJTF-HOA mission set. Using information age technology, the deploying HQs staff participated in a rigorous, 6 day, live-SIPR culminating training event on Fort Hood, which linked training HQs, CONUS based OC/Ts, and theater SMEs with action officers in Europe and Africa. This level of COCOM investment coupled with available communications technology decreased the overall time required to prepare a mobilized HQs for deployment and increased their understanding of their in-theater mission. This modernization of mobilization operations bridges the timeline gap required for large scale mobilization of reserve forces in support of MDO.

The First U.S. Army has modernized its approach to mobilizing reserve component formations to meet the requirements of multi-domain operations (MDO). Through direct investment from combatant commands (COCOMs), engaged partnership within First Army, and incorporating modern capabilities, reserve component road-to-war (RTW) training is approaching information age proficiency. Beginning with notification of sourcing (NOS) through mobilization, deployment, and return to home station, First Army provides integrated training for deploying HQs to meet a higher level of readiness on a shorter timeline. This new approach supports closing the gap in large scale mobilization operations (LSMO) by reducing in-theater training and validation requirements through integrating stakeholders on the RTW with available technology.

As a key component of the Total Force (ATF), the Army National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve make up more than half of the U.S. Army and contain vital capabilities required to meet the challenges of today’s modern combat. Since the ramp up to Operation Desert Storm, reserve forces have continued to deploy in support of enduring military operations worldwide. The RTW process for each of these units historically exceeds 12 months to provide a ready and trained team to the end user and includes multiple engagements, targeted training, and tailored validation exercises. Recent mobilizations of portions of the reserve force to support COVID-19 response operations and near-peer deterrence exercises have exposed the inadequacy of existing mobilization systems and facilities to meet the demands of LSMO. The Army does not currently possess the time, personnel, and facilities required for a full mobilization of the strategic or operational reserve. Nor do the strategic documents anticipate a future conflict in which the Army is afforded a six month window to build combat capability. However, the Army will continue to mobilize units for OCONUS operations into the foreseeable future and can safely assume contingencies will arise necessitating a partial mobilization of the reserve. Reducing the time these mobilized forces require to understand their COCOM mission and validate prior to deployment will reduce the stress on existing mobilization resources. The concept of integrating COCOM subject matter experts in the development timeline not only makes sound logical sense but also improves the effectiveness of the training and reduces the overall time required to achieve deployment readiness.

Operationalizing this new modern concept, First Army recently deployed a Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (MEB) from Fort Hood, Texas with real-time COCOM portal access and on-site theater SMEs in support of a USAFRICOM mission. The 67th MEB of the Nebraska Army National Guard mobilized in May of 2021 to conduct deployment training and validation on Fort Hood prior to their deployment in June to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. The 67th MEB HQ’s culminating six day validation exercise consisted of Master Scenario Event list (MSEL) injects developed with USAFRICOM SMEs through multiple joint exercise lifecycle events (JELC) to support the unit Commander’s Training Objectives (CTOs) and meet USAFRICOM’s comprehensive assessment criteria. USAFRICOM SMEs attended these events and coordinated with the First Army exercise planners virtually as needed to not only approve the Culminating Training Event (CTE) story lines and injects but developed a comprehensive set of metrics for the observer, coach, trainers (OC/T) used to measure the 67th’s performance and readiness for their USAFRICOM mission.

Subject matter experts from the 196th MEB, currently deployed to Djibouti, and USAFRICOM in Germany were critical to the development of realistic and relevant story lines for the exercise and provided over-the-shoulder support to the deploying unit. The team from Djibouti, led by COL David Dailey, the CJTF-HOA chief of staff and 196 MEB commander, provided real-world mission information to the Exercise Design Team (EDT) during the planning phase leading up to the exercise and then traveled to Fort Hood to mentor the 67th MEB as they faced the simulated rigors of their future mission during the training event. An additional team from USAFRICOM HQs worked with the 67th staff to help develop their RTW plan and was on-site during the exercise providing higher HQs input and communications support.

USAFRICOM joint training analysts designed assessment criteria to certify a MEB HQ for the CJTF-HoA mission. Their operations research/systems analyst (ORSA) cross-walked the unit’s deployed mission essential tasks (METs) with the USAFRICOM Campaign Plan, and the AFRICOM Campaign Order requirements supporting tasks to develop 600+ points of assessment. The points of assessment were tied to the key tasks performed by the deploying HQs. USAFRICOM Theater SMEs provided an overview and assessment training for the First Army OC/Ts to capture their observations of each training task and provide a response for the points of assessment. This type of exercise analysis approach is typical for a joint forces HQs (JFHQs) or an internal COCOM assessment but novel for a post mobilization, pre-deployment validation assessment. This exercise assessment approach provides information age feedback to the deploying HQs and a statistics based recommendation to the COCOM commander regarding their training readiness.

In addition to on-site SMEs, CJTF-HOA and USAFRICOM provided live reach-back support in theater through video teleconference, email, telephone and portal access. This setup offered the deploying HQs access to in-theater experts in areas the exercise could not replicate such as military intelligence, allied partnership, and foreign area officers (FAOs). CJTF-HOA and USAFRICOM established positions in their joint operations centers (JOCs) to manage requests for information (RFIs) from the deploying HQs and to route them to the appropriate directorates within the HQs. Each RFI was tracked and provided a short suspense for action. The directorates designated RFI POCs as well. Through this capability, the deploying HQs was able to enhance their mission analysis of their future operating environment (OE) in East Africa to meet required exercise training deliverables.

Several key technologies enabled a live/virtual validation exercise for the 67 MEB including access to the USAFRICOM portal, the Global Agile Integrated Transport (GAIT) framework, a host of thin client end-user computers, the new Joint Training Tool (JTT) and use of the new, state-of-the-art General Richard Cavazos Mission Training Complex (MTC). The GAIT framework was established by the Army in 2017 to link the worldwide Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) regional hub nodes into one global architecture to enable network communication in, out and within theater. This data exchange remains on a tactical network, eliminating the need for enterprise access and enables corps and division-level commanders at home station real-time mission command and exchange with subordinate units globally. For the 67 MEB, GAIT provided seamless communications with USAFRICOM over the COCOM’s tactical network through Fort Hood’s GAIT node.

The 67 MEB, the theater SMEs, and the exercise control personnel were required to submit access requests for the USAFRICOM network to be able to login to the USAFRICOM portal. The exercise itself, utilized real-world theater data from the portal to include troop readiness and locations, intelligence reports, available transportation assets, and existing theater posture for the deploying HQs planning considerations. The 67 MEB was presented with several crisis and deliberate planning scenarios of which they needed to navigate the portal to find the relevant data to conduct mission analysis. The USAFRICOM portal also allowed for the sharing of critical unit information and trackers.

The exercise was initially designed for each user to work on a classified government computer to access the portal. However, this design proved infeasible due to significant delays in the current digital equipment supply chain. In lieu of classified computers, USAFRICOM provided enough thin client computers to provide access for a majority of the deploying HQs’ staff, theater SMEs, and exercise control. Thin client computers provide a virtual computer environment from the COCOM’s tactical servers without allowing classified data to rest outside of the virtual network. Since data never comes to rest, these systems are not classified and can support either secret or non-classified internet protocols in a very small form factor. Their use requires monitors and peripherals but reduces the overall secure storage requirement. The construction of secret and non-classified systems kiosks provided sufficient access for this exercise with the intent to procure enough systems in the future to replicate workstations in the deployed environment for follow on training units.

Exercise control needed a means to manage and coordinate training injects by story line for the exercise while operating on USAFRICOM’s portal. First Army currently uses several different platforms for this task, but these platforms are not specifically designed for use on live SIPR. The Joint Force is developing a new MSEL management platform, the Joint Training Tool (JTT) which supports live SIPR collaboration, the exercise control was able to beta test for this event. JTT is on path to replace the Joint Training Information Management System (JTIMS) as the mandatory Joint exercise synchronization tool in FY2024. This was the first COCOM exercise with the first use of JTT and, while still under final development, the system showed the great potential for real-time inject tracking and collaboration among the disparate stakeholders. Overall, JTT proved to provide a capabilities leap forward in comparisons to the legacy JTIMS platform. JTT is still in development and this exercise provided valuable feedback towards improvements in its ease of use and expanded functions.

The MTC provided the means to connect all the technologies required to make this exercise successful. The Fort Hood MTC, dedicated to General Richard Cavazos in May 2019, provided the deploying HQs with modern capabilities at the scale of a Corps HQs and its subordinate commands. Although significantly booked for training events far into the future, the MTC was able to provide sufficient space to support a MEB HQs, the exercise control, theater SMEs, and OC/Ts. The MTC was already connected to the GAIT network for this purpose and provided pre-wired work spaces and drop down pig tails to pipe in the exercise data wherever it was needed. All the workspaces were modular, so conference rooms, large work areas, and command offices were simple and easy to configure to meet each mission. Workspace came with an installed overhead projector and white board to support briefings to put everyone on the same sheet of music or to get after planning the next operation. First Army will conduct future iterations of live virtual CTEs in the fort Hood MTC and will look to expand the scope and scale of these events to larger formations.

Mobilization modernization improves the Army’s ability to conduct LSMO, which deters adversary aggression and enables a capable response. The expansion of mobilization requirements from the two current mobilization force generation integration (MFGI) platforms to the expanded throughput of LSMO in near-peer or peer-to-peer MDO provides significant challenges to meet COCOM deployment readiness training requirements in a condensed deployment window. A live virtual training construct with COCOM investment coupled with information age capabilities can bridge this gap. Extending this new mobilization approach to additional COCOMs and establishing a relationship between GAIT nodes and MFGI training facilities provides a sound foundation for expanding mobilization operations in the future. The key selling point to this modernization is a significant return on investment to the COCOM by receiving a deployed HQs with advanced understanding of the mission and OE and mature communications and coordination with their supported HQs prior to arriving in the combat theater.


Feickert, Andrew and McGarry, Brendan. “The Army’s modernization Strategy: Congressional oversight Considerations.” Congressional Research Service. February 7, 2020.

Gilliam, Ken S. and Parker, Barrett K. “Mobilization: The state of the field.” Parameters 47(2). Summer 2017.

Hurst, Jules. “No way to get to the war: Mobilization problems and the Army Reserve.” Modern War Institute, USMA. October 30, 2020.

Marlow, Warren. “Lessons learned topics of First Army large scale mobilization operations forum.” U.S. Army. September 24, 2020.

United States Army. “Army Modernization Strategy: Investing in the future.” 2019.

United States Army Chief Information Officer (G6). U.S. Army Thin/Zero Client Computing Reference Architecture Version 1.0. March 14, 2013.

United States Army Training and Doctrine Command. “The U.S. Army in multi-domain operations 2028.” December 6, 2018.

United States Transportation Command. Defense Transportation Regulation- Part III Mobility. February 3, 2021.

Walker, Amy. “Innovative network architecture opens the “GAIT” to real-time global distributed mission command.” US Army PEO C3T Public Affairs. April 23, 2017.