For several years now, the U.S. Department of Defense’s doctrine, including U.S. Army Operations Field Manual 3-0, has provided guidance on how units train and prepare for sustained, large-scale combat operations as part of a joint force and against a contender with similar technological and strategic capabilities. With an evolving understanding of future potential threats, particularly with a shift from counterinsurgency to the prospect of chaotic, intense and violent great power conflict, U.S. forces prepare for a battlefield where they are not necessarily assured dominance. This is a battlefield that encompasses a broad range of domains in which to contend as well, including land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace, that each present ever more dynamic and complex problems.
Currently, the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division is upgrading with the most modern and lethal ground and rotary wing combat equipment available in the world today. The division is on a glide path to owning the Army’s most modern aviation and armored brigades by the summer of 2023, making their forces more connected and lethal than ever before. The 3rd ID prioritizes this effort as the nation’s competitors aspire to modernize their own weapons, equipment and data systems to a greater, deadlier degree.
However, weapons and vehicles are only some elements of the endeavor and the division’s senior leaders chose to exploit their role in the V Corps’ certifying Warfighter Exercise 22-1 to develop new processes, integrate new techniques of warfighting, and begin solving future warfighting challenges in the present. The WFX occurred across an extensive network of computers in a simulation integrated around the world, for V Corps and U.S. Army Europe and Africa across the Atlantic Ocean, and their supporting units in multiple states across the U.S. For the 3rd ID and its subordinate staffs and commands, the event played out at the Mission Command Training site near Fort Stewart. It began on Sept. 27 and concluded on Oct. 5.
As a subordinate unit to the Army’s newest corps headquarters in the exercise, the event stressed the integration and reporting of all warfighting functions in a simulation designed to generate tough decisions and catastrophic consequences against a live, free-thinking adversary. The Minnesota National Guard’s 34th Infantry Division also served laterally to 3rd ID as a subordinate unit to V Corps.
“I think both V Corps and 34th ID learned what great teammates the Marne Division is during the exercise, said Col. Ryan E. McCormack, the 3rd ID chief of staff. “From day one, Maj. Gen. Costanza stressed the importance of the Marne Division being ‘all in’ on this exercise and highlighting the fact that we are a part of V Corps, a member of a team.”
Although the 3rd ID serves organically from Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, as a member of the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, an overseas deployment could place the Dogface Soldiers subordinate to another combatant commander and command and control must be every bit as fluid there as what they are accustomed to day-to-day. As the “Hammer of the XVIII Airborne Corps” and part the nation’s premier strategic response force, units of 3rd ID regularly deploy to support commands all over the world, assisting allies and partners in a wide range of environments, training and missions.
“While the Marne Division consistently has talented and experienced warfighting staff, it must adapt to fighting as a tactical headquarters in large scale combat beneath different types of higher headquarters,” said McCormack. “We successfully did this during WFX 22-01.”
To test brigade, division and corps headquarters, staffs and commanders, a multi-domain, realistic and challenging exercise must replicate how they’re expected to fight, in this case as part of a large scale combat operation. The Army’s warfighter exercise is described doctrinally as “a distributed, simulation driven, multi-echelon, tactical command post exercise fought competitively.” A computer simulation provides scenarios with combat and battlefield effects, stimulating service members to respond, then work through the consequences of those decisions. To be as realistic as possible and therefore achieve the best possible training benefits, the simulation can’t be a guaranteed victory.
The division experienced fighting for air superiority while losing their own air defense assets. They attempted to attrite a wide-spread and entrenched enemy while experiencing attrition themselves by that near equally-equipped force. Commanders directed the maneuver of large, armored forces through environmental obstacles and urban constrictions. Meanwhile, unpredictable civilians affected decisions, representing obstacles or creating diversions of attention or energy. All of these factors and more created a vast number of variables for friendly intelligence to have to think through.
When Maj. Gen. Charles Costanza assumed command of the 3rd ID in the summer of this year, he directed that his Soldiers expertly coach, mentor, and train, and likewise be coached, mentored and trained, with the philosophy that such efforts would develop the most cohesive, lethal teams possible. To this end, the division turned to the First Army’s 188th Combined Arms Training Brigade at Fort Stewart, whose mission is to support pre-mobilization training of Army National Guard and Reserve units. The CATB provided experienced Soldiers as Observer, Coach, Trainers to enhance the experience for the 3rd ID training audience, guiding and advising the staff and its leaders throughout the “fight.”
“Our team hoped to enable the 3rd ID staff to see themselves from a different perspective,” said Lt. Col. Vaughn D. Strong Jr., the 1st Battalion, 306th Infantry Regiment, 188th CATB commander and Deputy Chief of Operations Group. “We actively observed their processes and procedures, identified frictions points, and made suggestion based in Army and joint doctrine to reduce friction.”
Their geographic colocation provides the armored division and the training brigade with the opportunity to cultivate a relationship that is, according to Vaughn, longstanding and symbiotic.
“The 3rd ID grew as a team with OC/T feedback and the OC/Ts received vital experience on division operations which enhanced their knowledge and increased our ability to support our guard and reserve partners,” he said. “The OC/T teams worked tirelessly to share [Mission Command Training Program] best practices and offer suggestions to enable their counterparts to be successful while 3rd ID enabled access for our teams which enabled our growth.”
In the future, the 3rd ID must be ready to deploy, fight and win decisively against any great power competitor’s units in a joint, multi-domain, high-intensity conflict. While the newest and most modern weapons and vehicles are essential to achieving overmatch against any other ground forces, the training processes and experiences must produce cohesive, well-trained and lethal teams to leverage those systems in potentially the most extreme, rigorous combat conditions any modern Soldier has ever witnessed. The individuals must be mentally agile, adaptive and resilient on an ever-evolving battlefield. To build this, leaders of the 3rd ID are tapping into the widest possible pool of thoughts, processes and concepts at every echelon, ensuring integration of new techniques, enhancing training value, and anticipating and solving warfighting challenges now.
“Often we forget that during these exercises, we are training individuals and groups to coordinate, synchronize, and integrate as one team; in my experience, this is hard business,” said McCormack. “Warfighter Exercise 22-1 allowed us to refine many of our processes that were good, allowing them to be better. We will get another opportunity in March and April 2022 when the Marne Division participates in WFX 22-4, where we will refine the doctrine of a Waypoint 2028-2029 “Penetration Division” for our Army. Additionally, we will be asked to integrate many of our future capabilities into this exercise to refine, adapt, and where necessary help develop doctrine and processes.”
This benefits more than the Dogface Soldiers today: lessons learned are informing the force’s Waypoint 2028-2029, the Army’s coherent and holistic approach to fight and win within the Multi-Domain Operations construct. The year 2028 is the waypoint where the Army will reassess its assumptions about future warfare and make adjustments to better meet the Army Futures Command task of creating an MDO-ready force by the year 2035. For now, the “Rock of the Marne” division can take pride in having assisted the Army on several endeavors in shaping capabilities force-wide and around the world.
“Our participation in this exercise is just one of many ways the Marne Division is helping our Army adapt and modernize in [fiscal year 2022] and beyond,” said McCormack. “We take significant pride in assisting V Corps to meet their training objectives as a functional corps and also help the Army as it certifies a fourth Corps headquarters for operations and assignment to the U.S. Army Europe and Africa area of responsibility.”