Army's Ongoing Transformation Was Decades in the Making
By Capt. Steve Alvarez, USA
American Forces Press Service
Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Yakovac said that when he entered the service in the early 1970s, the soldier was a "cheap instrument of war" outfitted at roughly $2,000 per soldier. "It was a very simplistic Army," he said.
Yakovac was the keynote military speaker at the opening ceremony for the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference.
The general offered anecdotes from his time as a young officer. He recalled that during field exercises, opposing-force vehicles would be marked with numbers. Friendly forces would engage the opposing forces by telling an exercise referee that they could see a particular vehicle, they would offer the vehicle number, and a grid location, and then explain how they would attack the vehicle. Yakovac also recalled using pneumatic mortar rounds, instead of the usual explosive type, to train his soldiers in front of the barracks.
"The revolution in training in the '80s and '90s ... makes us the best Army on the face of the planet," Yakovac said. He added that the transformation of U.S. forces would not be a destination, but a continual evolution.
Part of the training revolution of past decades, Yakovac said, includes the application of lessons learned to forces still in theater. Deployed soldiers currently train between operations and missions, and they train as scenarios change in theater. They adapt to the missions much faster these days, he noted.
An example of this, Yakovac said, is a convoy trainer, a mobile device used by more than 100,000 soldiers deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. In essence, it replicates what a soldier has seen on the battlefield and brings it to the training field.
But the systems, Yakovac said, are also critical in maintaining skills that tend to erode during deployments. Ultimately, the soldier retains and hones his core skills, but also is able to operate in the unique environment of his mission.
"Training has gone (from) an instrument used at home station to a fully integrated capability," Yakovac said. Some platoon leaders now in Iraq are being debriefed by a computer application that asks leaders about their operations when they return to their bases, Yakovac said. The information and data are then submitted into a network shared with other forces for training.
Yakovac closed his address by stating that the success of the Army's Future Combat Systems program for the Army and the joint world relies on "reconfigurable trainers" that can be used across the uniformed services. Sharing data was essential, he added.
"The soldier needs what you have shown and demonstrated. It gives us tremendous flexibility," Yakovac said. To support his point, he linked live to an Army officer serving in Mosul, Iraq. The officer's unit deployed with a mobile trainer to help the unit train its younger, less experienced members.
While some mission skills would be honed while deployed, other more routine skills used in peacetime missions might suffer atrophy, the officer said, if not for the mobile trainer. The officer also supported Yakovac's position that sharing and networking improved air and ground forces operations.
The conference continues through Dec. 1.
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