By Lt. Col. Richard GoldenbergNovember 13, 2007
CAIRO, Egypt (Army News Service, Nov. 13, 2007) - A large-scale command post exercise is being conducted jointly this week with Egyptian Army staff officers as part of Bright Star 2007.
Nearly 200 members of the New York Army National Guard's 42nd Infantry (Rainbow) Division headquarters, based in Troy, N.Y., are part of the exercise in Egypt.
The division, with supporting elements from New Hampshire, New Jersey and Minnesota, will team with members of the Egyptian Army's 9th Armored Division command and staff to replicate a multinational senior headquarters during the battle simulation exercise.
Bright Star is a biennial multi-national exercise that involves more than a dozen allied, coalition or partner nations in Egypt.
"For more than 23 years, since 1983, the success of Bright Star demonstrates to enemies around the world, as well as allies, that we can deploy a division headquarters, deploy an Army headquarters, conduct an airborne operation from halfway around the world, and insert an infantry company on the ground," said Lt. Gen. R. Steven Whitcomb, commander of the Third Army and U.S. Army Central, or USARCENT -- the 42nd Division's higher headquarters for the training exercise, "And you can interface and interact with conventional forces almost routinely."
This year's exercise will include a large-scale battle simulation exercise, meant to challenge senior leaders and staff in the command and control of combat forces operating jointly.
"All of us know that a command post exercise exerts pressure on the generals, colonels, lieutenant colonels and majors because it is a brain exercise," Lt. Gen. Whitcomb said to the combined American and Egyptian staff. "So challenge each other, learn from each other."
The computer-generated battlefield is based on fictitious nations in conflict and a coalition of nations responding to restore security and an internationally recognized border. The 42nd Infantry Division commander and staff will control a fictitious force of more than 110,000 troops for the command post exercise.
"There is no better expert on warfare in this maneuver box that we are conducting operations in than the Egyptians. This is their territory, they know how to fight this fight and we ought to learn from them," Lt. Gen. Whitcomb said.
Nearly three dozen Egyptian officers from the Egyptian 9th Armored Division will complement the 42nd Division staff for the exercise. Joint training began almost immediately after the division's deployment as members of the Egyptian staff learned about the Army's military decision-making process and techniques for the command and control of combat forces.
"We question each other and learn from each other," Lt. Gen. Whitcomb said, "and that is the real value of Bright Star."
The training in Egypt completes nearly a year of planning, training and coordination for the leaders and staff of the 42nd Division. Soldiers trained with Third Army leaders and Egyptian training officers throughout 2007, including numerous site and staff visits, hosting the Egyptian and USARCENT leaders in New York in March.
"We came with a plan," said 42nd Division Chief of Staff Col. Carl Pfeiffer. "We are here to demonstrate to the Egyptians that we are willing to work, partner and listen to them as we work through the (training) scenario."
"Our report card here is when our Egyptian partners write a letter to Lt. Gen. Whitcomb," Col. Pfeiffer continued, "and tell him that they enjoyed working with the 42nd Infantry Division."
Many members of the 42nd Division deployed to Cairo are veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom, having served with the headquarters in Tikrit, Iraq, in 2005. Much of the training sessions and mission planning involved applying lessons learned from that deployment to the control of thousands of troops in the simulated combat environment.
Part of the cooperative training included discussion and comparison of the two unit's capabilities and techniques for battle command. The two division commanders, Maj. Gen. El Araby El Suray from the Egyptian 9th Armored Division and Brig. Gen. Paul Genereux from the 42nd Infantry Division both led discussions among the joint staff.
"I can not be more pleased in the cooperative effort I'm seeing between our two staffs," Brig. Gen. Genereux said. "My goals for this mission were to safely deploy our command post and train alongside the Egyptian 9th Armored, achieving real unity in our two organizations for the exercise. Ninety percent of what I wanted to achieve in Bright Star, we have already done."
"They [the Egyptians] are taking our products to get synchronized with us," Col. Pfeiffer said. "That is unusual, but of all the units I've worked with in this part of the world, this unit [the Egyptian 9th Armored Division] is the best, by far."
"It is great to have the 42nd Infantry back in theater again," said Lt. Gen. Whitcomb in his remarks to the combined U.S. and Egyptian staff members.
(Lt. Col. Richard Goldenberg serves with the 42nd Infantry Division headquarters)