Military


National Training Center Exercises

The National Training Center [NTC] is the only facility in the U.S. Army that allows a full Brigade Combat Team to conduct both a live fire attack and a live fire defense integrating all of the Battle Operating Systems (BOSs), including direct air support from the Air Force. The BCT then fights through the ground upon which it conducts the live fire. Live fire may also include an attack on a local village by light forces or MPs to clear PPG. The final 8 days of the operation is regeneration of combat power and redeployment. The NTC rotation prepares soldiers for real-world missions by putting them up against an enemy, made up of Fort Irwin soldiers, who use their own expert tactics, knowledge and well-honed fighting skills.

Units regularly deploy to the Army's premier training site, the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, CA. Deployments to the NTC normally consist of a controlling brigade headquarters, two maneuver battalions, and various support units. Some unit equipment is shipped to the NTC by rail. Equipment not sent by rail is drawn from the NTC's stock upon the unit's arrival. The brigade then moves to the field for a two-week Field Training Exercise (FTX), which pits them against the highly trained Opposing Forces (OPFOR). The NTC provides units with a tough, realistic scenario of simulated combat in the harsh environment of California's rugged, high mountain desert. After Action Reviews (AARs) after each battle help soldiers and their leaders learn from their experiences. At the conclusion of the FTX, the equipment is cleaned, maintenance is performed, and turned back in to the NTC or readied for rail shipment.

Each fiscal year, NTC conducts ten (10) rotations, each rotation consisting of 28 days. The first 5 days (RSOI 1-5) are spent generating combat power and integrating into the 52 nd ID (M). During this period, there are host nation visits, demonstrations, stability and support operation (SASO) missions, media events and attacks by the PPG, which challenge the BCT JA and civil-military operations cell. The second phase, training days 6-9, is force-on-force training where the BCT conducts high intensity operations with the Krasnovian forces using MILES equipment. During this time period a BCT will normally conduct one defense in sector, two attacks and a movement to contact. The battle rhythm gives the BCT 24 hours between missions with two of the battles fought back-to-back. The third phase of the operation is live fire. This phase usually runs training days 9-14.

The ARNG receives one brigade rotation at the NTC each year. Rotations are allocated to the eight mechanized infantry/armored enhanced Separate Brigades (eSBs), making the rotation schedule once every eight years for each brigade. Based on associated Active Component unit input and using FORSCOM/ARNG Reg. 350-2, dated 1 March 95, (FORSCOM Commander's Assessment Matrix), the Adjutant General determines whether the unit has met the training requirements and will attend its scheduled rotation. The 116th enhanced Separate Armored Brigade (ID) attended in FY98, and the 155th enhanced Separate Armored Brigade (MS) attended in FY99. The ARNG receives and allocates five Leader Training Program (LTP) rotations annually. The LTPs are six days in length, and enhance staff coordination and combat decision making skills. Three LTPs are allocated to heavy brigades that attend NTC. Two LTPs go to light brigades that will attend JRTC. LTPs include a Tactical Exercise Without Troops (TEWT) and a JANUS battle staff trainer simulated exercise tied to the CTC terrain and fought against the CTC OPFOR.

About 70,000 soldiers, including 20,000 reservists, participate in the ten, month-long rotations the center plays host to every year. The NTC hosts up to twelve training rotations per year for divisions, separate brigades, and armored cavalry regiments. NTC is the only facility in the U.S. Army that allows a full Brigade Combat Team to conduct both a live fire attack and a live fire defense integrating all of the Battle Operating Systems (BOSs), including direct air support from the Air Force. The BCT then fights through the ground upon which it conducts the live fire. Live fire may also include an attack on a local village by light forces or MPs to clear PPG. The final 8 days of the operation is regeneration of combat power and redeployment.

Each rotation actually begins with the Leader Training Program (LTP), which has offered rotational unit commanders and their staffs an additional training opportunity since 1994. Conducted at 120 days prior to the start of the exercise, the LTP is designed around core training objectives and a menu of elective subject areas selected by the commander, based upon his own training assessment. It provides a full-up brigade and battalion staff-about seventy-five soldiers-a six-day active component training opportunity (three days for reserve component). The training unit is billeted at the LTP site at the NTC.

The process continues with the issuance of the alert order (about three months prior to the start of the exercise) and the home station trainup. Training for the rotation begins more than six months in advance, platoon weapons qualifications. Preparation starts at the platoon level and move up through company and task force to the brigade level over time. It's a process of conducting gunnery after gunnery with infantry, tank and field artillery battalions. Even the engineer unit has to perform gunnery with its Mine Clearing Line Charge, or MCLC. Along with the gunnery tables, soldiers go went through courses on how to deal with civilians and media on the battlefield. Training also includes three Brigade Combat Team missions, where they put everything together before heading for the desert.

Finally, the training unit arrives in the area of operations (AO) about seven days before the exercise. Armor and mechanized infantry battalions used to fall in on Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles at the NTC, part of a huge fleet maintained by contractors. That ended in February 2001, largely because NTC was stuck with older vehicles. The shift imposes a logistical challenge. In 1999, the average brigade combat team brought 110 rail cars to an NTC rotation. Now a similar-sized rotation requires 400 to 450. Units still draw a lot of equipment when they arrive at NTC, but they must do so under threat of attack from guerrillas belonging to the Sonoman-Coronan Revolutionary Front, or SCRF, known as "Scruffs." Each rotation features 40 to 60 Scruffs (usually played by Marines).

While the focus of the twenty-eight-day NTC rotation remains force-on-force maneuver training and live fires, the OPSGRP has incorporated contingency-based scenarios, especially during the Reception, Staging, Onward Movement, and Integration (RSOI) phase. Once soldiers arrive at the NTC, they start out in the Rotational Unit Bivouac Area, also known as the RUBA or Dust Bowl, for Reception Staging Onward Movement and Integration week.

The RSOI week timeline is a new feature to NTC rotations as of 2001. Beginning on D-8 the unit receives a warning order for a specific mission to be executed prior to move-out. On d-5 the unit chain-of-command meets the US Ambassador to Mojave and receives an RSOI fragmentary order in the Joint Task Force (JTF) Mojave Headquarters located in Irwin Military City. That same day, the unit backbriefs the JFT Commander on its concept of the operation pertaining to the RSOI mission and its method and plan for building and tracking combat power. From D-5 to D-1, the unit receives strategic updates from the 52nd Infantry Division staff and briefs the JTF Commander daily on progress made in building combat power. The 52nd Infantry Division will issue the first Operations Order for the rotation on D-2. On D-1 a tactical mission is executed. Also, O/C teams conduct RSOI after action reviews (AARs) at battalion, task force and separate company levels and the unit receives its last strategic update prior to move out. On D-Day a brigade level RSOI AAR is conducted by the Commander, Operations Group (COG). Attendees include the Brigade Commander, Executive Officer, S-1,S- 3, S-4, Task Force and Battalion Commanders and separate Company Commanders.

During RSOI week, the soldiers take their vehicles off the railcars that carried the equipment from Fort Hood. They also start accounts to get meal cards and equipment. What the soldiers don't bring with them, they borrow from the NTC. The RSOI occurs during the first five days of the rotation, during which the training unit prepares to move from the assembly area (the "dust bowl") into the "box." Soldiers guard the Dust Bowl perimeter during RSOI week while they're preparing to move to the main training area, commonly known as the Box.

After RSOI week, the BCT goes to the Box to fight for two weeks and then to the Rotational Unit Field Maintenance Area, or RUFMA. At the RUFMA, they begin the process of turning in equipment and also prepare to ship it back to Fort Hood through a process called regeneration.

After Action Reviews [AARs] are the most important events at the NTC, and are conducted from platoon through brigade level. An AAR is a structured review that provides feedback in training and allows participants to discover what happened, why it happened, and how it could have been done better. Conducting an AAR is both an art and science which must be mastered by all OCs. There are two types of AARs, informal and formal. The OCs often use the informal AAR for an on-the-spot review with soldiers and leaders. At the NTC, OCs at every level conduct a formal AAR after each mission.

The informal AAR is used frequently by OCs throughout the rotation. It requires less planning and preparation than a formal AAR and is often focused on a single critical event. The informal AAR may be conducted with an individual soldier or a unit. Often only a dry erase board and leading questions are required to conduct an informal AAR. Regardless of the amount of planning and preparation, the goal of the informal AAR is the same as a formal AAR: to provide the unit the ability to discover what happened, why, and how to do it better. Topics which OCs typically address using an informal AAR are troop leading procedures, boresighting, PCCs/PCIs, and individual skills at platoon level.

The formal AAR is a scheduled event conducted after each mission, and requires detailed planning and preparation. The sequence for the AARs is platoon, company, Task Force/Battalions, then the Brigade Combat Teams AAR in order to facilitate learning at all levels, and to build on lessons learned.



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