FORT BENNING, Ga. - Top Army and civilian leaders highlighted the past, present and future Wednesday during MCoE Industry Day at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center.

The conference gave the Maneuver Center of Excellence an opportunity to share desired capabilities with industry partners, organizers said. The event featured a series of presentations and afternoon breakout sessions.

Opening speeches came from Maj. Gen. Robert Brown, the MCoE and Fort Benning commander; and Col. Butch Botters, deputy director of the Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate. They discussed the importance of tactical small units, the need for network communications in dismounted operations and incorporating more simulation in training.

Brown said the Army's future effectiveness hinges on refining combined-arms maneuver - offense, defense, stability and civil support operations - in a wide, complex security area, and CDID is leading the way.

"We have the time and we're making the effort to look further into the future, and that's one of our main jobs here," he said.

CDID's main mission is to maintain the battlefield primacy of Soldiers and the formations in which they fight, Botters said. The focus is on Soldiers, materials and training integration.

"We have to stay out in front of these young Soldiers we have today," he said. "They learn faster, so at the schoolhouse, we have to get that information succinctly to them.
And we have to change faster.

"It's only going to get more complex as we go forward. How we put this into simulation and training is a real challenge for us. ... We've got lots of work, lots of opportunity and lots of requirements."

Shifting the Armor School to Fort Benning alongside the Infantry presents unique training opportunities, Brown said. The Armor move from Fort Knox, Ky., is about halfway complete ahead of the Sept. 15 deadline for Base Realignment and Closure.

"We train the way we fight, which makes perfect sense," he said. "We see all kinds of possibilities as we move forward. ... Different functions, different perspective: But if they don't play together, they're going to fail."

Technological advances have created a "sea of information" and taken much of the guesswork off the battlefield, the general said. However, finding the critical pieces is challenging.

"Technology allows us to do more with less," he said. "You can be faster using some of the technology ... but sometimes we slow ourselves down a little bit too much."

Brown said the Army's mounted formations have made "a huge leap" technologically.

The platforms within the Bradley fighting vehicle, Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle and M1 Abrams tank are well linked and networked. That's brought a rapid response to incidents in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"When used properly ... too many people will respond," he said. "That's a good problem, as opposed to you're there isolated for long periods of time. As we look back through history, we see a lot of cases of that. But today, something happens and ... folks in the area respond. That's a tremendous thing and very, very useful."

Botters said brigades are clamoring for an extension of network connectivity to Soldiers at the tactical small unit level.

"Being able to know where the rest of your team is in the network and being able to communicate is enabling our Soldiers to cover more area," he said. "Mounted, we got it.

We step off the platform, we don't have it. ... We've got to get that network out and on the periphery."

Brown said the lack of networking in dismounted operations is a problem in today's fight. The concepts are under experimentation and development, but for now, Soldiers still mostly rely on radio communications.

"We need to link them. That's absolutely critical for our success in the future," he said. "The solutions are out there. ... Our job is to prioritize who gets that and get it to the pointy end of the spear."

The tactical small unit will continue being the decisive element in battle, the two leaders said. Boosting its capability through modernization efforts is a big priority at CDID.

The blended training model, meanwhile, is the "next revolution" in Army instruction, Brown said. Soldiers face delicate scenarios in war zones, but they can be rehearsed through repetitive simulation, which also saves money with budget cuts looming.

"Of course, you have to do live, too," he said. "(But) I'd say about 50 percent of the force does not understand the use of simulation. It's an education process. ... The only way we can get at replicating a complex operating environment, replicating the challenges we'll go through, is to incorporate this blending training model."

Today, a company commander is doing what a battalion commander did two decades ago, the general said. That places even larger emphasis on preparation at home.

"It's much less experience, much greater responsibility and much greater load put on them," he said. "How do you get them to the point where they can make those sound decisions' ... It's the blended training model."

Brown said the military's partnership with industry has forged an agile operational force.

But flexibility remains crucial for the generating force and institutional Army, he said.

"We can't pat ourselves on the back too much. ... To stay ahead of this enemy and those that would do us harm, we have to keep moving forward," he said. "We have to figure out how not to let those barriers keep us from getting the Soldiers what they need."