SALUTE Report from the IBCT
COL (Ret) Duane Hardesty, Senior Functional Analyst, TRW, and
SGM (Ret) Larry DeRoche, Military Analyst, CALL
|From an "observation post" located at Fort Lewis, WA, two observers are looking out over the Army's first IBCT as it begins to take shape. Here is their first SALUTE report. This report is their own view and not the official perspective of TRADOC, FORSCOM or the Department of the Army. The report is designed to illicit professional discourse throughout the U.S. Army in determining how best to man, equip and train our Future Force to meet the nation's military strategy in an ever-changing world.|
A current television advertisement depicts a Chief Executive Officer of a perishable food wholesaler company standing on his loading dock asking his shipping manager why all the produce is rotting on the dock. The shipping manager replies that they do not have a system that can synchronize shipping with customer orders. The next scene shows the same CEO saying to an information technology consultant, "But we have rooms full of computers. I just don't understand how this can be happening." The consultant's replies, "It isn't the number of computers you have, it is knowing what they can do for you that matters." And so it is with the Army's newest digital system and combat multiplier - ABCS, which serves as the nerve center for the Army's new Interim Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs).
Transformation and modernization are not new to the Army. Many changes, some of them quite radical, have taken place in the Army's history. So what is so unique about the transformation process taking place within the IBCT? Is it the manner of employment and missions assigned to this new lighter force? Is it the wheeled vehicles replacing the tracked ones? Is it the tactics? While these are important, it is the ABCS digital command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capability enabling the commander of IBCT units to choose the time, place, and manner of engaging a hostile force that makes this transformation process unique. This new technology provides the IBCT with an unrivaled capability of gaining situational understanding.1So like the CEO of the produce company, IBCT commanders need to have more than vehicles equipped with computers and high-tech gadgets to be successful. They must thoroughly understand what this combat multiplier can do to enhance their ability to gain real-time situational awareness, thus leveraging the full potential combat power of the IBCT.
The Army Training Model and the IBCT
In November 1988, the U.S. Army published FM 25-100, Training The Force. The manual describes the Army's training doctrine and how units train to accomplish assigned missions. This document quickly became the foundation for conducting Army training, and remains so today. All involved in the process realized that a unit could not remain proficient in all collective tasks because it simply did not have enough time. So FM 25-100 established a process for determining the most critical tasks a unit had to accomplish to be designated as mission ready. This process generates the Mission-Essential Task List (METL), which is tied directly to the unit's assigned wartime mission. Wartime missions and corresponding METL development became the means of developing Army training methodology over the past two decades. The most striking result of the focused training strategy and execution outlined in FM 25-100 was the successful execution of Operation DESERT STORM.
FM 25-100 introduces and institutionalizes a process for evaluating training performance that emphasizes unit self-assessment through the after-action review (AAR) process. The AAR process has become one of the most powerful tools of the training doctrine. FM 25-100 also focuses on the need for an aggressive "sustainment training" program for both individual and collective training tasks. Following an initial assessment, a "band of excellence" is established as a baseline for the unit to train and in which to remain. The unit also determines a required unit readiness status for each period and the amount of training required to return a unit to fully capable status. The field manual also serves as a tool for developing the unit's short- and long-term training plans. It tells the unit how to execute, assess and evaluate training. All of these steps are integral parts of developing a meaningful unit training schedule that guides the unit toward being mission ready. This model is depicted in Figure 1.
Figure 1. The Army Training Management Cycle
Following this model is critical to the IBCT's success. Without adhering to the model, units cannot fully develop the digital enablers that are being fielded. Since the IBCT is in its developmental stage, it does not yet have an assigned wartime mission. So instead of a METL, it uses a Centralized Training Task List (CTTL) which is based on the IBCT's understanding of its likely wartime mission requirements.
Figure 2. IBCT Centralized Training Task List
The CTTL is the basis for the initial assessment and is applied to prepare the IBCT training plan for all phases of the transformation process at Fort Lewis. The CTTL task, "Conduct Command and Control," is especially important when coupled with the IBCT's reliance on its ABCS systems. With the critical role these digital systems play in situational awareness and understanding, it is absolutely imperative that IBCT leaders completely and thoroughly understand the detailed workings of these digital systems. Commanders must understand the difference between the science and the art of operating this suite of systems. If the IBCT leader doesn't fully understand the functions and the capabilities of the organic ABCS systems, then he is unable to leverage them to their full potential.
While the ABCS should be viewed as a "system of systems," each component ABCS system must be viewed as a separate "weapons system." Both operators and staff members must undergo a thorough initial "digital qualification" training and evaluation program to ensure they are well grounded on their "weapons system." After initial training, the commander must extensively manage the maintenance, training, and employment of each of these digital tools, much as a tank battalion commander does with his tanks. This necessitates a well-structured sustainment training program focused on keeping the individual operator and staff sections fully trained at all times.
Lessons Learned during the Initial Brigade Fielding
ABCS Training Sequence Lessons Learned
A key lesson learned during the fielding of the first IBCT is that the brigade staff must be fully trained in all aspects of the ABCS system prior to the start of collective subordinate unit digital training. This should occur while the maneuver units are turning in their old equipment, since this is a time-consuming part of transformation, and does not involve heavy staff participation. When the brigade staff is well-trained in the ABCS system, it can then develop a better training strategy for the entire brigade. Without initial training of the brigade staff, it cannot properly assess or evaluate subordinate unit training needs or performance, because it does not understand how the ABCS components operate. Transformation of a legacy unit to an IBCT should begin with the full immersion of the brigade command and staff in digital training.
Stabilization of Personnel Lessons Learned
Within the IBCT community, there are several different thoughts pertaining to the stabilization of soldiers within the IBCT. This becomes an important issue since transformation requires significant amounts of training unique to the unit, and currently is taking about 27 months from the initiation of the transformation process. Three courses of action are available to the Army for stabilization: start-date, mid-course, or routine. By discussing these options and their impact on the IBCT readiness process, we can draw conclusions for the best method of stabilization for future IBCTs.
Start-Date Stabilization - The first course of action is to stabilize soldiers within the IBCT from the "e-date"2of the IBCT with soldiers remaining in place for the total period of the transformation. With this option, a unit wouldn't begin to feel the effects of the Army's replacement process until after Initial Operating Capability (IOC).3Once the unit has completed transformation, its soldiers are fully trained in all the new systems and individual soldier equipment. They have the opportunity to apply lessons learned and refinement to new tactical doctrine. Once this process is complete, IBCT units are capable of deploying as a full-spectrum force.4By stabilizing soldiers from the start, the IBCT does not need to establish a period of "retraining" in the middle of the development of the new doctrinal concepts as soldiers move in and out of the brigade.
Mid-Course Stabilization - Another possible scenario for stabilization includes rotating the first chain of command at their normal rotation point, and stabilizing the follow-on group of commanders. This is the situation currently facing the 1st IBCT. Within the IBCT, three of six battalion commanders will rotate 18 months into the transformation process. The battalion commanders are rotating at a time when their units are receiving the complex digital TOCs and beginning the intensive preparation for the Brigade Warfighter Exercise scheduled for September 2001. Within the field grade staff officer ranks, the current turnover is projected at 70 percent, with company-level officers about the same.
Because of the massive turnover of key leaders, the leadership of the IBCT must be trained repeatedly from the beginning. Since the institutional Army is not yet equipped to train individual soldiers on several of the ABCS systems, namely the two key maneuver systems of FBCB2 and MCS, these new personnel come to the IBCT with no digital systems training. It only takes one visit to one of the newly fielded IBCT TOCs to understand the complexity of the total package. The ABCS system is clearly at the "center of gravity" for the IBCT. If commanders and their staffs cannot make it work or do not understand how to leverage its full potential, they will be unable to gain the powerful situational awareness garnered by this system, and will not gain the edge to choose the time, place and method of defeating enemy threats.
The training required to fully understand and employ the capabilities of the digital systems are enormous. Ask an artilleryman how many hours an operator has to train on TACFIRE to maintain efficiency? The reply will be around 16 hours per week. After multiplying that by the hundreds of digital systems in an IBCT, one quickly grasps the enormity of the training challenge facing an IBCT commander at every level. Successful fielding and training plans must start with the leadership's full appreciation and understanding of the capabilities and complexities of this new combat multiplier, the ABCS suite. Since time is clearly one of the most precious training commodities available, it is clear why replacing a major portion of IBCT unit personnel prior to IOC is an expensive proposition.
Routine Stabilization - The final course of action is not to stabilize personnel. Simply continue to rotate soldiers and officers into and out of the IBCT in accordance with the Army's current replacement policies. Under this course of action many of the lessons learned are lost as personnel rotate in and out of the units. The installation assumes the role of constantly training new ABCS operators since for now the institutional Army cannot fill this role. Once institutional training at all levels within the Army begins to cover the critical components of the ABCS suite in detail within TRADOC courses, this option may become viable.
Digital Crew Management -- Lessons Learned
Just as tank crews remain qualified on their tank gunnery requirements, the same should be true for operators in their assigned digital systems within the IBCT. For each digital system within a unit, there must be sufficient operators and supervisors to operate the system 24 hours daily for 180 days. This requires a day and a night operator for each system and requires that each operator is "checked out" on their assigned system.
Within most combat arms maneuver units, crew-served weapons are tracked by each system and crew. For example, within tank battalions,5crews must qualify routinely in accordance with a series of tables through Tank Table VIII. To qualify on their assigned system, crewmembers must successfully accomplish all required tasks to established standards. To remain within the "Band of Excellence" established in FM 25-100, the crew must practice for many hours in the Unit Conduct of Fire Trainer (UCOFT). Failure to meet the established standard means the crew is unqualified. Similar standards must be developed and applied to digital systems.
The brigade leadership, with assistance from I Corps and the TRADOC Brigade Coordination Cell (BCC), developed an exceptional individual digital training program. During New Equipment Training (NET), instructors teach soldiers how to operate their assigned digital system. After the unit operators and leaders achieve an appropriate level of proficiency, unit leaders must then plan follow-on training to sustain them in the "band of excellence." Regular, integrated sustainment training is the key to success for digital units. Sustainment training must be conducted not only on the system the operator uses, but also across the suite of systems that the system supports throughout all levels. Since each of the ABCS components provides information to other systems, when training is conducted, it must be structured in a manner that replicates the information exchange taking place when the entire network is deployed.
Commander's Role -- Lessons Learned
Commanders at every level must view the ABCS suite as a "combat multiplier" and intensively manage the systems like other combat systems. Commanders at echelons from company, troop, battery, and brigade must establish a "battle roster" for tracking the individual and crew qualification for each component of the ABCS. The status of each individual operator and staff section should be added to the monthly "Readiness Reporting System" and Quarterly Training Briefs (QTBs), keeping commanders at all levels informed on the training status of each key piece of equipment at the core of situational understanding for the IBCT.
Commanders within digital units must be trained on each ABCS system organic to their units and possess a thorough understanding of the relationship of each part of the system. Commanders at each level must understand not only the "science" of ABCS, but they must also master the "art" of battle command using its capabilities. The science of ABCS is the manipulation of the systems to produce the information that each system generates. The art of ABCS is the execution of digitally enhanced battle command. This necessitates extensive training time devoted to understanding and learning how to leverage the system's full potential. The amount of training time required to sustain operator, section, and staff proficiency requires intense management by unit commanders and senior NCOs.
Within the IBCT, leaders and soldiers are doing incredible work in the very challenging environment of transformation. All involved are developing innovative and creative solutions to the complex issues of initial training and sustainment of complex digital systems. Simultaneously, the IBCT experiences soldier and leader turnover, and continues to search for the ideal method to manage personnel turnover.
Digital training must be monitored similar to crew-served weapons. Tracking soldier "digital qualifications" will ensure that leaders budget adequate time and resources to maintain operator proficiency on their assigned system. Commanders of digitally enhanced units, at all levels, must extensively manage both individual and collective training to fully leverage the advantages that ABCS provides. This allows the commander to focus his unit's combat power at the place and time of his choice. Sustainment training must be integrated across the entire unit digital spectrum and must encompass all personnel within the unit. Only with proper training and sound systems knowledge can unit supervisors fully take advantage of the capabilities of ABCS to increase situational understanding and information dominance throughout the brigade.
|Although the units at Fort Lewis face daunting challenges during a period of difficult change, immense progress is being made in preparing the IBCT for its role in future conflicts. The soldiers of 3d Brigade, 2d Infantry Division, are steadily transforming their units with a goal of achieving IOC by the timeline established by the Army Chief of Staff, and are doing so in a timely and professional manner. There is much to be accomplished, but from our observation post, it is clearly visible that the soldiers of the Initial Brigade Combat Team are up to the challenge. Until our next SALUTE report, "Scouts Out" from the IBCT!|
Situational understanding (SU) is the result achieved by applying analysis
and judgment to the unit's situational awareness. It is the fundamental force
enabler across all Interim Brigade Team battlefield operating systems and the
foundation for risk mitigation with respect to brigade vulnerabilities - IBCT
O&O, 30 June 2000, p. 15.
2. E-date refers to the date that the new MTOE takes effect in a unit conducting transformation to an IBCT.
3. IOC is the date that the IBCT unit is fully deployable and mission capable.
4. Full-spectrum describes the capability of an IBCT to deploy to, and conduct operations in, smaller scale contingencies (SSCs) for peacekeeping and peace enforcement to a Major Theater War (MTW) with conventional large-scale conflict.
5. DA PAM 350-38, Standards in Weapons Training, 3 July 1997, details minimum qualifications standards for weapons and weapon systems. It delineates the minimum time and qualification standards that must be met for a soldier and crew to become and remain qualified with their weapon or weapon system.
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