By Laura M. Levering, Northwest GuardianJune 16, 2011
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- With a deployment on the horizon, America’s Corps is ramping up as it prepares for its departure to Afghanistan.
When I Corps deploys this summer, its mission will be to help lead the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command in Kabul -- a complex mission in a complex country.
But thanks to a training exercise on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, or JBLM, troops will be going into it with confidence and a sense of familiarity.
I Corps Unified Endeavor is underway at the Battle Command Training Center, one of the Army’s most high-tech and versatile simulation training centers.
The exercise is part of a massive effort spanning as far as Poland.
Unified Endeavor is designed to prepare troops for their upcoming deployments to Afghanistan.
More than 1,400 personnel from 24 nations are participating in Unified Endeavor at JBLM, with an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 total taking part in simultaneous exercises across the nation and Poland.
The main purpose of Unified Endeavor is to prepare troops for deployment by placing them in an environment that mirrors the demands they face in Afghanistan.
Everything from the types of operations to room configurations are being replicated.
“In order to make these guys immersed into a scenario like they’ll be in downrange, you have to create a wraparound environment so that the training audience thinks it’s in a scenario downrange,” said Col. Lex Shealy, I Corps chief of exercises.
“Our mission is to make them think that they’re inside the fight in Afghanistan,” he said.
Exercises conducted simultaneously are all linked together electronically by video teleconference and scenario giving each the capability to share information so as to replicate scenarios and enhance the exercises’ effectiveness.
In an environment like Afghanistan where you don’t have time to waste and are forced to
carefully manage resources, replication becomes key to succeeding downrange, where it really matters.
“You have an enemy, and he will try to take advantage of that and knock you off track of your mission,” said Col. Jim Danna, G3 chief of operations, plans and training.
“Peoples’ lives are on the line, so you’ve got to be at your peak going in so you’re ready to handle situations.”
Danna is in charge of leading the planning element that looks at the environment, analyzes information, then makes recommendations to the commander on what to do in order to achieve success.
I Corps will be running the day-to-day operations of the war, Danna said, to include coordinating activities of regional commands, determining where aircraft will travel, where to move troops, and when and how to go about training Afghan security forces.
The objective is to help and improve on those things that are currently being worked on " a task Unified Endeavor is helping troops prepare for before they deploy.
Despite “bad days” and ongoing violence, overall Danna sees the campaign going in a positive direction as Afghan security forces grow in number and ability.
“The real burden of the fight is falling on the Afghan Security Forces, and our job is to make them better so they can take the lead and then be independent operations and be able to secure their own country,” Danna said.
“It comes down to the will of the Afghan people to not tolerate forms of radical extremists that are trying to take over parts of that country.”
The subset of that is the effectiveness of the Afghan security forces to help protect that population.
Approximately 90 percent of I Corps will be deploying, with three-quarters of it going to be part of ISAF Joint Command Headquarters in Kabul.
The remaining quarter will be spread out across theater.
Unified Endeavor began June 5 and will conclude June 20.