As the Army looks toward how it wants to fight in 2030 and beyond, the concept of the Penetration Division is taking shape. During several weeks of training and experimentation as part of Warfighter 22-4 and the Joint Warfighting Assessment 22 at Fort Stewart, Georgia, Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division replicated a Penetration Division in an effort to assess the formation’s capabilities.
The Army has designed the Penetration Division to be a decisive unit of action and prioritized it for organizational and technological transformations. For the past 30 years, the Brigade has been the decisive unit of action, and as the Army prepares for large-scale combat operations, changes are needed. It has been found that the combined arms operations at the brigade level do not have the combat power to achieve penetration of enemy forces. A Penetration Division is specifically built to conduct large-scale combat operations.
With that starting point, Soldiers from the 3rd ID stepped up during the U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command’s JWA 22 to replicate a Penetration Division and provide lessons learned. The 3rd ID spent the months leading up to JWA 22 learning about the capabilities of a Penetration Division. That early and dedicated preparation allowed 3rd ID Soldiers to step into the Penetration Division role and replicate the capabilities ably, said Lt. Col. Billy VanCuren, integration team chief for JMC’s operations group A.
“3rd ID has put in an absolutely great effort into becoming a Penetration Division,” VanCuren said. “They started off with Leader Professional Development sessions last year. When they found out they were going to replicate a Penetration Division, and I met their players for the first time, they had already read the materials that were written about the Penetration Division. All that has paid off in this experiment, and the 3rd ID is now giving us a great look at how a Penetration Division should operate.”
In being some of the first Soldiers to attempt to fight as a Penetration Division, it took some time to change their way of thinking and really understand how to utilize new capabilities, like Air-Launched Effects, said Maj. Franklin Peachey, 3rd ID intelligence planner
“Now we’re causing the enemy multiple dilemmas, and we are having simultaneous effects throughout the depth of the battlefield, really over 100 kilometers, which is just unprecedented.” Peachey said. “It took a lot for the division to expand their thought process, and it took us months and weeks and days of reps to have the language to do that.”
As 3rd ID Soldiers learned more about the Penetration Division and how the Army wants to conduct Multi-Domain Operations, they started to see how the sensor-to-shooter linkage could work. Then practicing it during JWA 22/Warfighter 22-4 allowed them to clearly see how to employ it, and how deep they could sense and target, said Lt. Col. Mike Hefti, 3rd ID chief of plans.
“Some of the capabilities they've given us for unmanned systems is an incredibly big change to the way we fight,” Hefti said. “I think some of the fires assets they have given us will also change the way we fight. What I’m seeing in the army 2030 is an ability to now have a sensor-to-shooter linkage. Now, instead of putting the cost of a human being out there to send something, I have some stuff that's close to all-weather capable, these unmanned robotic systems I can put forward to preserve human life. Those then pull us forward to engage the enemy at the place and time of our choosing.”
Combining the Warfighter 22-4 exercise with the JWA 22 experiment has allowed the 3rd ID to think creatively about how they fight while still receiving their readiness training, Hefti said.
“What we’re doing in this exercise that’s a little bit different maybe than the normal Warfighter is we’re taking a little bit more liberty on creative thinking,” Hefti said. “So with new types of units and new type of capabilities that are developed, we’re using the same fundamental basic principles, but we’re applying them in a different process or a different way on the battlefield. That may seem nuanced, but it can have quite a large impact in the overall result.”
Any worries about combining those two missions of readiness and modernization experimentation have been eased by the success of JWA 22 and Warfighter 22-4, Hefti said.
“Sometimes people look at it as an ‘either/or;’ either I have to do an experiment or I have to do a Warfighter,” Hefti said. “I think anyone who wasn’t a believer in this combination before, they are believers now. This is not a sacrifice to readiness; it’s a readiness-building tool that helps build readiness in current formations, and builds readiness for the future. And so I think we're getting a double win there. I think we’re absolutely getting after both objectives, which is a huge win for our formation and the Army.”
Thanks to the preparation and dedication of the 3rd ID, several weeks of training and modernization experimentation have come together to make both the current and future Army stronger.