Infantry leaders sharpen training tactics to meet battlefield demands

By Kristin Molinaro, The BayonetSeptember 15, 2010

Infantry Warfighting Conference
MG Michael Ferriter, commanding general of the Maneuver Center and Fort Benning, addresses the crowd Tuesday at the annual Infantry Warfighting Conference. More than 1,000 attended the three-day conference, which brings together Army leaders worldwid... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

COLUMBUS, Ga. - Integrated, interactive training is transforming the force for the modern battlefield.

In his Infantry Branch update Tuesday at the Infantry Warfighting Conference, BG Bryan Owens, chief of Infantry and commandant of the U.S. Army Infantry School, cited ways the school is applying the Army Learning Concept to develop Soldiers and leaders with the tools "they need to survive, be successful and win on the battlefield."

The annual conference brings together Army leaders from around the world to share lessons learned, tactics, techniques, and procedures from across the operating force, deployed environments, generating force and training centers. This year\'s theme is "Developing the Maneuver Force for Wide Area Security and Combined Arms Maneuver."

Ninety-four percent of Infantrymen are in the fight, on orders or just returned home, BG Owens said.

Infantry Soldiers make up 15 percent of the Army force.

"Our Infantry Soldiers have fought well for nine years. The force is a bit tired but still pressing on," the commandant said.

To better prepare Infantrymen for combat, the general said the Infantry School is providing realistic training and real world scenarios so "once they get into combat ... it's not the first time they've seen it."

Among the changes at the schoolhouse are a transition to student-led training and greater emphasis on interactive learning.

"We want (Soldiers) to learn how to think, not what to think," he said.

The Infantry School saw a 34 percent reduction in PowerPoint slide use.

The learning environment has changed from large classroom, instruction-based, instructor-focused training to small group, outcomes-based, student-focused and interactive training through virtual, constructive and gaming environments.

Maneuver Captain's Career Course students can now explore 3-D virtual scenarios to learn the principles of reconnaissance, as opposed to the 52-slide PowerPoint presentation of the past. Videos available online at Fort Benning's website help prepare future recruits for one station unit training, basic rifle marksmanship and combatives.

Combatives has been integrated into all courses taught through the Infantry School.

Advanced Rifle Marksmanship, championed by brigade commanders at Fort Benning and Fort Knox, Ky., has been added to OSUT. The additional marksmanship training focuses on buddy team movements and marksmanship in an urban environment.

A change in physical fitness training is also preparing Soldiers for the fight.

The Physical Readiness Training program, which was fully implemented Armywide in July, takes on a new approach to physical readiness by using methods that work both core body and combat skills while reducing injuries.

Changes to course curriculum are teaching Soldiers not only how to think but when to react. Urban operations training puts squads in real-world situations where they could come across unarmed civilians or enemy combatants and must quickly determine how to appropriately engage them.

MG Michael Ferriter, commanding general of Fort Benning and the Maneuver Center, addressed the need to put Soldiers in a variety of training scenarios and virtual environments so they can better prepare for the war fight.

"Today's Soldier sees the world differently, learns differently ... he responds and transitions between ideas differently," he said.

MG Ferriter said the whole aim is to put the Soldier in a situation where he can confidently move forward.

In closing, the Infantry commandant emphasized to leaders to keep the force relevant by continuing to send Soldiers to training schools.

MCoE Update:

The Maneuver Center of Excellence continues to transition and bring together the arms of the Infantry and Armor.

The Armor School transferred command May 27 and its first tanks arrived at Fort Benning Aug. 11.

"It's been a heck of a year," said MG Ferriter, in opening Tuesday's presentations.

Construction is ongoing at Building 4, the future home of MCoE headquarters, and on Armor School facilities at Harmony Church. Tank crews from Fort Knox, Ky., will prove a new digital multi-purpose range complex next week at Harmony Church.

In discussing the integration of Armor training, the MCoE commander laid out the progression of blended and combined courses.

At the lowest levels, Infantry and Armor School training will continue to remain separate.

The Maneuver Senior Leader Course, "How the BCT Fights," and the Ground Combat Vehicle Course will be blended. Advanced NCO and officer's courses will combine Infantry and Armor students.

Armor State of Branch:

COL Ted Martin, chief of Armor, assured Armor troops that the transition to Fort Benning will be a smooth one. Donning his Cavalry Stetson in front of the audience, the commandant of the Armor School talked about what he sees in the future for the Armor force.

"We have two missions and neither of them is easy," said the commandant, speaking of the Armor School's departure from Fort Knox, Ky., and its transition to Fort Benning.

"There are a lot of veterans of the Armor force that are worried about what will happen to the Armor corps when it comes to Fort Benning. I'm here to tell you I will not let you down."

The 316th Cavalry Brigade and 194th Armored Brigade will make the move to Fort Benning over the next 12 months into facilities at Harmony Church that will serve as a "first-class academy of mounted warfare," he said.

"The power we have now is that the Infantry and Armor are not a thousand miles apart - we are shoulder to shoulder, back to back, getting the job done," COL Martin said.

The current Armor force consists of approximately 21,000 Soldiers - 3,000 officers and about 18,000 enlisted Soldiers split between reconnaissance and tank specialties. At Fort Benning, the Armor force will train and prepare for combined arms maneuver and enhance its capability in wide area security.

"We will develop a larger, more capable, more adaptable reconnaissance force out there in the nebulous, ambiguous world the enemy has decided to fight us in," he said.

As the Armor School transitions, the commandant also spoke on the ongoing transitions within the Armor ranks since 2003.

When Operation Iraqi Freedom kicked off, approximately 64 percent of the Armor force was tank or heavy, compared to 36 percent cavalry. Those numbers have flip-flopped.

Fifty-seven percent of the force is now reconnaissance-based, he said.

"Our Army understands we need to have more eyes and ears on the battlefield, become more of a reconnaissance and surveillance capable force that's still prepared to close with and destroy the enemy," he said.

As Armor Soldiers prepare to take on roles in non-typical units, they will become combat multipliers.

What this means for the future, he said, is a traditional Infantry-centered formation, such as the 101st Airborne Division, "stands a good chance of being commanded by an Armor officer."

Editor's Note: Information contained in slideshow presentations at the Infantry Warfighting Conference were used in this article.

Related Links:

Photos from the conference

Fort Benning Homepage

Armor link

Infantry link