FORT LEAVENWORTH, KS -- This month the Mission Command Training Program celebrates the 25th anniversary of its establishment as the U.S. Army's only worldwide deployable Combat Training Center.

MCTP, which is part of the Army's Combined Arms Center-Training, traces its start date to Oct. 1, 1986 when the program was initiated under Col. David S. Blodgett. Originally known as the Battle Command Training Program, the organization became the capstone of a new effort within the Army to provide headquarters elements with realistic and challenging training. The National Training Center in California and the Joint Readiness Training Center in Louisiana were already offering useful experience at the battalion-level, where maneuver and agility were critical. BCTP was created to provide the staffs and commanders of Army brigades, divisions and corps with training for the myriad tasks involving logistics, personnel issues, unit wear and tear, etc. associated with their echelon on the battlefield.

BCTP would evolve from a single mobile training team to MCTP's current organization composed of seven operations groups, each of which has a specific training focus. Alpha and Delta provide full-spectrum training to combined-arms formations at the division, corps and army level, Bravo trains for joint and multinational roles, while Charlie targets brigade combat team training. Foxtrot prepares specialty brigades (Engineer, Military Police Battlefield Surveillance, etc.) for overseas duty, Sierra concentrates on sustainment units and COE supports exercises with a realistic and challenging operational environment.

From the beginning of the program BCTP proved its worth to the U.S. Army. During Operation Desert Storm and the initial phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom the organization provided Soldiers to augment the staffs of several warfighting units, contributing to the success of those operations. MCTP stands ready to supplement the staffs of units chosen to conduct contingency operations, providing a reservoir of professional and experienced officers to serve overseas if needed. This is in addition to its role of preparing staffs for both ongoing operations overseas and to prepare units for contingency operations.

The evolution of the program continues. The change of its designation from Battle Command Training Program to Mission Command Training Program was made earlier this year and reflects updates in Army doctrine. While the terms "Mission Command" and "Battle Command" both emphasize the importance of leadership, Mission Command concentrates on the Commander's need to empower operationally adaptive leaders to conduct full spectrum of operations. These leaders must simultaneously conduct offensive, defensive, stability and civil support operations anywhere in the spectrum of conflict… a spectrum which may be expressed in terms beyond geographic boundaries.

MCTP's success comes from its unique use of Observer/Trainers, Senior Mentors and specialists who provide a host of technical and tactical expertise during exercises. Observer/Trainers (also known as O/Ts) are officers and senior NCOs who have experience in staff positions overseas and in joint and multinational organizations and who provide the necessary guidance during the conduct of the exercise. Senior Mentors are retired U.S. Army general officers now employed by the Department of the Army who have command experience at the brigade-, division- and sometimes corps-level. They can give advice and provide insights to the commander of the unit being trained. Finally, specialists (largely contractors) provide the simulations and various technical services necessary to make the exercise realistic and relevant to the needs of the unit being trained.

The exercise process is entirely tailored for the unit being trained via coordination between MCTP and the unit commander. Seminars and conferences lead up to the actual conduct of the exercise, providing an opportunity for the staff and commander of the unit to be trained to meet with MCTP O/Ts, discuss the scope and scenario of the exercise and to provide input.

In June 2010, the Battle Command Training Program was recognized with the U.S. Army's Superior Unit Award. Last year MCTP also reached another milestone, an unfortunate one: the first loss of an officer while in a combat zone. Col. John M. McHugh died while in Kabul when a suicide bomber struck the convoy in which he was traveling. The Battle Seminar Facility was renamed this year to become the Colonel John M. McHugh Training Facility in his honor.

This year the Mission Command Training Program celebrated its first Organizational Day. MCTP organized a motorcycle rally, a golf tournament, a trap shoot, a 25-mile relay race and several other competitions in conjunction with a cookout held on October 6th. Operations Group Alpha was the first winner of the MCTP Commander's Cup, an award that will be presented every Organizational Day.

The first 25 years of MCTP have proven worthy the concept of providing high-level training for staffs and commanders of U.S. Army combat units. The Mission Command Training program will continue to adapt and evolve in order to make the United States Army the best-prepared force in the world.