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MGIT Presents Cost-Effective Way to Train Battle Groups

By Journalist Seaman Kristine DeHoux, USS Nimitz Public Affairs

Story Number: NNS030128-11

Release Date: 1/29/2003 3:12:00 AM

ABOARD USS NIMITZ (NNS) -- Several Pacific Fleet commands recently came together for a three-day experiment to test the possibility of successfully training an entire battle group pierside.

The experiment, called Operation Patriot Star, kicked off the Maritime Group Inport Training, or MGIT, with a meeting of the commanding officers from Nimitz Battle Group. For the next 72-hour period, these warfare commanders would come together as a team to make decisions that could affect the world.

Participating in the event was the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Carrier Battle Group; Commander, Carrier Group 1; and Tactical Training Group Pacific (TACTRAGRUPAC). The three commands also received help from Fleet Combat Training Center Pacific (FCTCPAC).

The simulated "world" the battle group entered was much like the real world they might face during the battle group's upcoming deployment. The commanders were faced with all kinds of obstacles during the exercise that tested their decision-making skills, yet they were still expected to accomplish the mission. The Nimitz Battle Group's success in this exercise would ultimately determine whether this new form of tactical training could benefit the rest of the fleet.

"Nimitz Battle Group is the first to try this," said Commanding Officer for TACTRAGRUPAC, Capt. Richard Arnold. "It's really an experiment to see if this sort of training is something of value to ships in preparation for at-sea events."

With the battle group's Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) and Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) on the horizon, the MGIT would help prepare the battle group for more complex tactical training at sea, and improve on training readiness ratings.

"We're trying to duplicate being at sea for the decision makers," Arnold said. "Because it costs a lot of money to take a whole battle group to sea, we want to see if we can accomplish some of the same training and still conduct regular in port operations."

MGIT focuses on training one decision maker in particular, the battle group commander. For this experiment, Commander, Cruiser Destroyer Group 5, Rear Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, was their target. The admiral, who commands the Nimitz Battle Group, had to take into account all the things the battle group was experiencing and the mission at hand, then prioritize and position his forces accordingly.

"The MGIT exercise put the entire Battle Group in realistic warfighting situations where we all were challenged and stressed in ways that we might encounter in future global war on terrorism operations," said Locklear. "The training allowed us to test and rehearse our warfighting doctrine and procedures, to make mistakes, and to learn from them."

Besides intense training for the battle group commander, MGIT also gives Sailors the advantage of quickly working out some of the kinks in their systems and equipment. With Nimitz remaining pierside, technicians can simply walk aboard, figure out the problem, and either fix it immediately or quickly return with the proper parts to do so. This helps the battle group to be ready to train the first day underway for COMPTUEX, whereas before, the technicians would have to be flown out to the ships and may not arrive with the needed parts to perform the maintenance. These sorts of delays, that waste underway-steaming dollars and impede upon training, are what this new training resolves.

Conceivably, the most significant benefit to this new in port training is the cost effectiveness. With all the advances in technology, entire battle groups can now be linked together to experience these simulations simultaneously and really feel as if they are in a hostile area without having to go to sea at all.

"There are some advantages to training in a building where everyone's in a class and we can go over things," said Arnold, "but I still don't have the same equipment that people have here. So now, we're able to generate a scenario that makes it look like, even though you're pierside in San Diego, that you're really underway in the Arabian Gulf."

The simulations that FCTCPAC and TACTRAGRUPAC create can be very intense.

Because it's simulated, Arnold said, "We can do some things that they can't do at sea. FCTCPAC can "launch" as many aircraft as they want. They can also make any kind of ship appear at any time of the day," said Arnold. "My training objective might be to ensure the DESRON (Destroyer Squadron) 23 commander can handle four or five enemy submarines, and it's hard for COMPTUEX or JTFEX to actually have those four or five subs right there. Even then, we would be using U.S. forces to pretend like they're the "bad guys," but the simulations for MGIT will actually look like those enemy ships."

MGIT tests how each warfare commander performs.

"Everything they are supposed to be able to do, we are trying to see if in fact they can do those things," said Arnold.

Besides overseeing the experiment, TACTRAGRUPAC also provides mentorship for the warfare commanders. People who have recently experienced real-time war operations in similar roles are there to offer advice and guidance.

"Tactical Training Group Pacific and Commander Carrier Group 1 personnel have years of combined warfighting expertise," said Locklear. "Their mentorship and constructive feedback were key to the battle group's success in this demanding training event."

MGIT has afforded the Nimitz Battle Group the opportunity to train its decision makers, promote coordination between its warfare commanders, familiarize its crew with real-time war operations and terminology, and repair casualties quickly and efficiently in a cost effective way.

"For years we have pursued shipboard, pierside training simulation that closely replicates being at sea," Locklear said. "MGIT achieved that in ways that will revolutionize how we prepare battle groups to fight. For three days, MGIT replicated realistic at-sea war-fighting conditions without ever removing the brow.

"I would highly recommend it to any battle group commander and his staff," Locklear added. "Don't leave port with out it!"

Whether or not the Navy officially adopts this new type of training into future battle groups' inter-deployment training cycles, MGIT has proven itself to be a useful tool in helping the Nimitz Battle Group move towards becoming the West Coast's next "ready carrier."

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