By Master Sgt. Corine Lombardo, New York Army National GuardAugust 2, 2011
SHOALWATER BAY TRAINING AREA, Australia, Aug. 3, 2011 -- They’re called umpires and just like on a baseball diamond they’re expected to make decisions based on their knowledge and experience - but this is no game.
These umpires determined the outcome of land force, maritime and air operations maneuvers for over 20,000 U.S. and Australian military personnel participating in Talisman Sabre exercises in Australia, July 11-29, 2011.
Instead of a few dozen players running bases to determine a winner, thousands of U.S. and Australian forces landed on beaches and took to the bush in simulated combat field training during Talisman Sabre 2011. Moving together throughout central and northern Queensland, the Northern Territory, and the Coral, Timor and Arafura Seas, with one goal in mind - defeat a common enemy.
Ground and mounted personnel from both friendly and fictitious enemy forces crossed steep elevations and varied terrains, as they denied their opponent the capability to conduct counter attacks. Each side concealing their movements and setting up hasty defense positions in order to attack and defeat their enemy.
But what happens when both sides are convinced they have achieved success? The umpire steps in.
Because this is simulated battle and live ammunition isn’t used during exercise engagements, umpires use a specific calculation to determine personnel and equipment casualties.
“It’s a complex calculation based on the weapon type, its capabilities and effective range, the position of the target and visibility and weather conditions,” said Capt. Kathryn Walker, an engineer with U. S. Army Pacific Command, who is umpiring for the first time. “It’s a lot to take in, there’s a lot of moving pieces to keep track of on the battlefield.”
“These umpires use techniques to apportion both equipment and personnel losses to provide training that is as realistic as possible to gain maximum training for both sides,” said Lt. Col. Eric Stevenson, Joint and Combined Umpire Liaison Officer to Forces Command, Australian Defence Force.
The team of roughly 200 umpires and observers made up of U.S. and Australian Defence Force professionals provide observations and evidence to support the evaluation of war fighting skills and mentor commanders in the field. Umpires adjudicate tactical events to enhance exercise realism.
“A score card is kept that records every aspect of the battle, however, it is imperative that the umpires use their professional military judgment to adjudicate each exercise scenario,” Stevenson said.
The biennial training exercises use fictional scenarios incorporated in combined land force maneuvers, amphibious landings, urban and air operations, Special Forces operations, and coordinated firing of live ammunition from a range of in-service weapons systems used by exercise participants.
Talisman Sabre is sponsored jointly by the U.S. Pacific Command and Australian Defence Force Joint Operations Command, aimed at improving and validating combat readiness and interoperability.
The exercises also test combined operations staffs in crisis action planning to conduct contingency response operations and humanitarian missions, culminating in U.S. 7th Fleet Joint Task Force certification.
The umpires also ensure compliance with stringent exercise environmental protection and safety instructions.
“They have the authority to halt any training activity that threatens the environment or personnel safety,” said Lt. Col. Merv Uren, Joint and Combined Umpire liaison officer to Forces Command, Australian Defence Force.
The week-long exercise brings together the different branches of the U.S. and Australian military to exchange combat skills and techniques, as well as train and enhance their combined and joint war fighting skills.
For many of the participants it was their first opportunity to train with military personnel from a different culture with different weapons systems.
“It has been great getting to know my Australian counterparts and sharing military tactics and techniques. I look forward to learning a lot from them,” said Pvt. 1st Class Walter Beatty, an Infantry Soldier with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 158th Long Range Surveillance Cavalry.