Practice Makes Progress
Spc. Michael Maniscalco with the 720th Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), from Baumholder, Germany, demonstrates different methods used for explosive access and general disruption of a vehicle during “Operation Top Gear” at a Kosovo Security Force (KSF) demolition range near Pristina, Kosovo on Jan. 14, 2023. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Capt. Travis Kirchner, 111th Public Affairs Detachment, Nebraska National Guard) VIEW ORIGINAL

It could be a large scale terrain model, a pocket map over the hood of a HUMVEE before rolling out, or even hopping on a radio call while traveling to your destination; Whichever way it goes, operational rehearsals are essential to preparing Soldiers for an operation, keeping them safe and conducting a mission successfully.

“An operational rehearsal demonstrates to the commander that everyone understands their tasks and objectives,” said Capt. Philip Bougere, Chief of Operations for Kosovo Force Regional Command-East (KFOR RC-East). “Understanding the key task, the commander’s end state and it is a way to get a pulse on shared understanding across the board.”

There are multiple types of ways to conduct these rehearsals based on the time allotted. Most commands prefer face-to-face versus a terrain model, according to Bougere. Some more examples of rehearsal types include: computer models, on a map or even a full scale demonstration on the ground similar to the area of operation that the mission will be conducted in.

“I think to plan a good rehearsal you can take two or three of those options and combine them,” said Col. Chris Mabis, KFOR RC-East commander. “So from a rehearsal on a map, then a terrain model and then on the terrain that is close to what you’re going to operate on.”

There are many important reasons for conducting operational rehearsals, but there is one reason in particular that leaders everywhere can agree on: synchronization.

“The challenge is conducting a rehearsal in a manner that is synchronized and can visualize the operation with whatever tools you’re using,” said Lt. Col. Jared Sheets, commander of the KFOR RC-East Maneuver Battalion.

There could be negative consequences due to a lack of operational rehearsals, no matter the scale of them.

“If you fail at proper rehearsal, then the synchronization probably won’t happen the way you intended it to,” said Maj. Brendan Williams, KFOR RC-East Operations Officer. “Also in the rehearsal, there may also be certain contingency plans or items that weren’t fully planned on the front end and it just makes your plan more complete.”

Practice Makes Progress
Kosovo Force (KFOR), Regional Command-East conducted Cavalry Guardian Exercise, an emergency response training exercise, geared toward testing team cohesion, resilience under stress, and job proficiency, near Camp Novo Selo, Kosovo, on Jan. 10, 2023. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Skyler Schendt, 111th Public Affairs Detachment, Nebraska National Guard) VIEW ORIGINAL

A mission has many variables to work out before it can come to fruition. From pre-combat inspections, to logistic inspections, many things need to be taken into consideration. Planning preparation is only one factor.

“Planning can only take you so far,” Williams said. “If everybody doesn’t rehearse and confirm they understand the plan, then you are less likely to succeed when you need to do the mission.”

Most U.S. Army leaders follow the “one thirds, two thirds” planning structure. Meaning, one third of a mission is spent on planning at the higher headquarters level and the other two thirds are allotted for the timeline planning from subordinate units.

“It’s very important to be stringent on the one third, two thirds planning horizon,” Williams said. “It’s better to get out 80% of a plan and rehearse it properly, than it is to get 100% of the plan out and not have any time for a rehearsal.”

Without synchronization and proper preparation, chaos could ensue and lead to people getting hurt, according to Sheets.

“You can create a lot more confusion through rehearsal, if it’s not prepared properly because of the way it’s conducted or the lack of detail doesn’t enable adjacent units to synchronize their plans with other units,” Sheets said. “If you make a bunch of changes during the rehearsal, but don’t have time to notify anyone of it, then what’s the point?”

On top of planning and synchronization, other barriers are present. Particularly in a multinational NATO environment, where not everyone speaks the same language, has different military doctrine or comes from a different cultural background. More time must be allotted to allow for proper interpretation and visual aids.

“The one common language we all know is visual. [...] I think everyone is a visual learner on some level,” Sheets said. “The NATO standardization of the planning process, terms and graphics helps greatly.”

Practice Makes Progress
Maj. Gen. R. Dale Lyles, Adjutant General for the Indiana National Guard, visited Soldiers of Kosovo Force Regional Command East (KFOR RC-E), in Kosovo, during the weekend of Dec. 17-19, 2022. (Photo Credit: Courtesy Photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

These communication barriers between allies have been present in almost all past military operations, dating back to WWI. For most, these barriers are unfamiliar waters to navigate. Fortunately, by working together as a team, these NATO partners and allies are able to learn from one another and ultimately become well-rounded fighting forces.

“We learn and improve by working with all of our coys, regardless of the nation because everyone has a strength in something,” Sheets said. “We’ve found that some units are absolutely phenomenal in their preparation before the mission, while other units are very good at detailed planning and a lot of units are good at operating very quickly.”

Operational rehearsals give units the time to ensure everyone is on the same page before the execution of a mission and builds an important comradery between friendly forces that allows for a higher chance of success for the operation.

“The benefit of doing a rehearsal especially in a multinational setting is that you begin to learn how other militaries operate,” Mabis said. “Most importantly you become familiar with those folks before you actually go execute a mission.”

With each operational rehearsal, new skills are acquired and new tactics are able to be implemented. These rehearsals ensure understanding of the key task, commander’s intent and mission objectives, no matter which countries are involved.

“Our ability to work together when you pull all of these different nations together and you start to overcome language barriers, differences in tactics, cultural differences,” said Mabis, “you start to build an even stronger coalition.”