By Casey Bain and Gustavo BahenaMarch 17, 2010
(FORT IRWIN, Calif. (March 4, 2010) - A Canadian Forces unit recently completed a rotation at the U.S. Army's National Training Center in preparation for its upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.
Task Force 1-10, part of the 2nd Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group located near Ottawa, Ontario, has been training for its upcoming Afghanistan mission with assistance from NTC's Operations Group, the U.S. Air Force's Green Flag West at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., and the U.S. Joint Forces Command.
The nearly seven-week training rotation for the Canadian unit marked the first time that the NTC has hosted a brigade-size coalition partner in preparing for a combat deployment to Afghanistan.
"We conduct training for coalition partners at combat training centers routinely, but not to this magnitude," said Army Brig. Gen. Robert "Abe" Abrams, NTC and Fort Irwin commanding general. "This is the first time we've had an allied brigade come and train at a CTC. It's a first for the CTC program, and it's a first for NTC."
This capstone training event for the Canadian task force also received vital support from the Air Force's GFW and USJFCOM's Joint Fires Integration and Interoperability Team, said Canadian Forces Brig. Gen. Jean Collin, commander of Canada's Land Force Central Area and Joint Task Force Central.
"As far as combined operations and the integration of U.S. air assets, this training has been very beneficial," he said. "We've received tremendous air support from our U.S. partners, primarily through the Air Force's Green Flag exercise, and NTC's and Joint Forces Command's hard work coordinating those assets. The fact that we've been able to conduct this type of airspace coordination and call for fire training with a coalition partner is huge."
Green Flag West supported the training with F-16 fighter aircraft from the 510th Fighter Squadron, part of the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base, Italy.
"Where we really earn our money is integrating our close air support capabilities with the Army and our coalition partner ground forces," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Walker, commander, GFW and the 549th Combat Training Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. "There's learning on all sides, and it pays big dividends to our forces once they are deployed."
The Joint Fires Integration and Interoperability Team, or JFIIT, helped integrate a variety of joint intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets between the Canadian Forces and GFW.
"We assisted the Canadian task force by providing them with the tools they will need to request U.S. joint ISR assets when they deploy downrange," said Danny Myers, JFIIT senior military analyst at NTC. "We helped the NTC staff coach, teach, and mentor TF 1-10 on how to use U.S. assets like the Predator, Reaper, and other key resources to enhance their operations and help make the entire coalition team more effective in theater."
"NTC and the Air Force's Green Flag are great examples of how we can integrate our coalition partners into a first-class training environment that can benefit the entire team," said Army Lt. Col. Richard Meredith, JFIIT operations officer. "This training will help the unit shorten their learning curve once in theater and will improve the integration of coalition assets so the commander can more efficiently leverage all available capabilities."
The Canadian task force commander explained the importance of this extended NTC training rotation for the unit.
"Overseas, we have Canadian and American forces working side by side under each other's command, and we share assets back and forth on a regular basis," said Canadian Forces Col. Wayne Eyre, TF 1-10 commander. "However, back in Canada we don't have regular access to many of the ISR platforms that we do at NTC. Here our young officers can practice integrating both Canadian and U.S. assets the same way they will overseas."
Abrams said NTC's staff and resources provided a realistic training environment for units preparing to deploy.
"The single most important capability that we have to train our joint and coalition forces are our people," Abrams said. "It's the observer controllers, opposing forces, contractors, cultural role players, and all our joint partners. It's the people aspect that makes the difference and sets us apart from everybody else in the world.
"This has enabled them to train their forces to a high level and put it as close to their deployment as possible," he added. "They will be razor-sharp when they leave here, and ultimately, it will save lives."
The advantages of this training were evident to the leaders of the Canadian unit.
"The beauty about this training was at the end of the day, I think our two nations worked so well together, and it really didn't matter what flag was on the side of the airplane or surveillance aircraft supporting the ground forces," Collin said. "The procedures were the same, the calls for fire were the same, and you got the required effect on the target regardless of the nation that provided that effect and that was truly beneficial."
"We've been fighting hard in Kandahar for the last five years, and we'll continue fighting hard with our brother American forces," Eyre said. "Our soldiers very much appreciate this training opportunity. We're soaking up the lessons learned here like sponges and the staff here at NTC has done everything possible to make this a world-class training event."
(Casey Bain serves as a public affairs officer for JFIIT, USJFCOM and Gustavo Bahena is with NTC Public Affairs.)