By Mike Dearborn, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command International Army Programs DirectorateAugust 17, 2012
TEL AVIV, Israel -- Gen. Robert W. Cone, commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, led a delegation to Israel to participate in the 21st Future Battlefield Conference, July 15-19, 2012.
TRADOC's relationship with the Israel Defense Forces began in 1973 following the Yom Kippur War. While the FBC was formally initiated in 1988, the TRADOC commanding general has served as U.S. head of delegation since 1990. This year's U.S. delegation consisted of Cone; TRADOC Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Dailey; Maj. Gen. Arthur Bartell, TRADOC's deputy director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center; Thomas Greco, deputy chief of staff for Intelligence; Center of Excellence commanders from Maneuver, Fires, Sustainment, Maneuver Support, Aviation; and selected school commandants. Maj. Gen. Shlomo Turgeman, chief of the IDF Ground Forces, served as the Israeli head of delegation. The FBC is an annual event conducted alternately between locations in the U.S. and Israel.
During his visit, Cone spent time with Soldiers at the IDF's National Training Center, where he observed a battalion-level exercise in an urban environment. This demonstration reflected lessons from the Israeli experience in Southern Lebanon and Gaza and their new approach to training combined arms operations anchored by mobile protected platforms, specifically tanks, armored personnel carriers, and bulldozers with fire support integrating all arms and joint capabilities into the fight.
Next, the IDF Ground Forces Head of Doctrine and Concepts discussed Israel's Capstone Concept, followed by an Army of 2020 presentation by Bartell, the U.S. delegation's deputy head of delegation. It was clear the Israeli view of the operational environment is very similar to that of the United States. They see a combination of regular and irregular forces operating in complex terrain and leveraging innovative weapons and strategic communications to frustrate conventional armies. Other discussions focused on preserving armored force capabilities to counter a wide spectrum of threats, and the transition to training for decisive action after protracted periods of counterinsurgency operations.
Other key events included a field visit to the Gaza Division to talk to leaders and Soldiers about the unique attributes of the Namer armored personnel carrier. Already fielding a world-class tank in response to their experiences in Lebanon in 2006, the IDF has also developed the Namer infantry fighting vehicle.
The Namer is survivable, carries 11-12 dismounts, can evacuate casualties, and has cross-country mobility. Although concerns exist about its width, firepower, and the weight, the U.S. Army continues to incorporate insights concerning the capabilities and limitations of the Namer into ground combat vehicle development.
"We gained some valuable insights on the Namer and how the Israelis view mobile protected firepower that will inform our discussion on the ground combat vehicle," Cone said. "Their logic on it is simple and refreshing." Other equipment observed was the Merkava 4 Tank and Iron Dome (air defense) systems.
The "Counterpart Day" on July 17 included tailored itineraries for Armor, Infantry, Aviation, Field Artillery, Air Defense Artillery and Engineer commandants. Counterparts shared their army's respective approaches and lessons on warfighting themes ranging from urban operations, reconnaissance and surveillance, and fire support to assured mobility and mission command. Cone reiterated the importance of this visit to the U.S. Army and how TRADOC greatly values the partnership with the IDF Ground Forces. According to Cone, the visit provided learning opportunities for commanders to share solutions to common challenges faced in combat.
A plenary session focused on dialogue about two U.S. topics: Unified Land Operations -- including lessons learned from Afghanistan -- and rapid adaptation. IDF Ground Forces topics included challenges of combat leadership, and the influence of long COIN periods on performance in war. It was clear in the IDF briefings that their after-action reviews did not focus on prescribed plans and reactions. Their process encourages and rewards innovation, promotes teamwork, and creates a fertile environment to rapidly adapt TTPs. The current generation of Soldiers in the U.S. Army are likely to be equally receptive to a similar "innovation culture."
Cone and Turgeman co-signed a memorandum codifying the 2013 military to military Agreed-to Actions, and the session concluded with two significant ceremonies: Bartell officiated the promotion of Lt. Col. Bill Saba, TRADOC liaison officer to the IDF, and Cone presented the Meritorious Service Medal to Col. Aviv Reshef for his service as the IDF liaison to TRADOC since 2010. Cone highlighted Reshef's role in facilitating standardization and interoperability issues between the armies during his tenure. Reshef's replacement, Col. Amnon Meir, arrived as the new IDF liaison officer to TRADOC last week.
The FBC concluded with Cone and Turgeman conducting a wreath-laying ceremony July 19 at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.
Sustaining the FBC remains a top priority for TRADOC, and the next FBC will be conducted in the U.S. in 2013.
"In many ways, Israel leads transition and provides insights on future concepts and ideas," Cone said, "and the Future Battlefield Conference provides a venue for that exchange."