FORT IRWIN, Calif. (Army News Service, Feb. 11, 2008) -- The operations group at the National Training Center is now integrating joint air-ground assets into the training of brigade combat teams in the California desert.

One of the new training elements is the joint air-ground integration situational training exercise. The A-GI STX allows warfighters at the BCT level and below to focus on key targeting objectives they will use when they deploy in combat.

Some of those objectives include planning and executing the targeting process; conducting battle tracking; and conducting command and control operations in the three-dimensional battle space.

The joint A-GI STX training is led by the operations group at NTC and supported by U.S. Joint Forces Command's Joint Fires Integration and Interoperability Team. The training concept allows units to work together with many joint assets to hone their skills and battle drills within the targeting process, said Maj. Thomas Hansbarger, JFIIT operational lead at NTC.

"NTC has taken on additional requirements to facilitate and integrate joint assets to achieve multiple service training objectives," he said. "What NTC is doing here benefits the entire force, especially those preparing to deploy."

The training was developed from lessons learned by combat teams that have already been in Iraq, said Lt. Col. Brad Stewart, NTC operations group chief of plans and operations.

"This training helps the brigades to shorten their learning curve once they're in theater and ensures integration of joint assets so the commander can more efficiently leverage all capabilities on the battlefield," he said.

The 3rd BCT, 1st Infantry Division, is the first unit this year to undergo the joint A-GI STX training. Leadership within the 3rd BCT says the training helped provide a realistic and rigorous joint training environment for the team. That training, they say, will help better prepare them for the challenges they will face during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"This is the first time we've had a chance to train on some very unique missions with our joint brethren," said 1st Lt. Michael Guay, fire support officer, Alpha Troop, 6-4 Cavalry, 3rd BCT, 1st Infantry Division. "NTC has provided a great opportunity for our entire fire support team to come together and train. The whole team is participating in this fight and we're working together to get better every day. This has been a really positive experience."

The primary training audience at NTC may be the Army, but all services provide crucial assets to facilitate the joint training environment. Those joint service participants gain experiences they can leverage when they deploy in theater.

"This is an excellent opportunity to bring together a comprehensive group of joint assets to train together for the reality that awaits in theater," said Air Force Master Sgt. James Rigney, tactical air control party subject matter expert at JFIIT. "The Airmen who train here with the Army will refine mission-essential skills that will help them accomplish their job once in country."

This joint A-GI STX training initiative demonstrates NTC's ability to integrate service-specific training requirements into Army BCTs' training rotations.

"We've learned when we come together as a team and focus on crucial joint training requirements, we can help each other accomplish multiple service training objectives," Stewart said.