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FORSCOM scales up interoperability during multinational exercise

By Thomas Brading, Army News Service April 19, 2021

FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- U.S. Army Forces Command units hosted multiple European militaries to test interoperability this month during a large joint exercise that simulated corps-level battle, its commander said Friday.

Warfighter 21-4 teamed U.S. Soldiers with tactical divisions from the U.K. and French armies, said Gen. Michael X. Garrett during a virtual Defense Writers Group event.

The exercise, which ran from April 6-15, replicated how a corps would fight alongside multinational, unified action partners.

"It's a computer simulation driven event," Garrett said. "We do these to train our divisions and corps in large scale ground combat operations."

The exercise was also the largest Mission Command Training Program exercise in over three decades, and the result of months of planning and preparation, organizers said in a recent news release.

"We're never going to fight alone and our partners are always going to be incredibly important to us," Garrett said, "and training with them, gaining a better sense of our interoperability requirements and challenges just make us stronger."

The exercise also continued to test an enduring environment based on command and control for operations, support, planning and execution using a common network infrastructure.

Following COVID-19 prevention guidelines, over 3,000 troops came together from multiple locations, including Fort Hood and Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; and Grafenwoehr, Germany.

Garrett took part in an after-action review during the last day of the exercise.

"There weren't any huge surprises," he said. "What we continue to learn is that interoperability with our partners and allies is incredibly important."

From the start, military leaders tested the combined formations on their ability to operate down to the brigade levels. The British and French forces integrated at the U.S. divisional level, and for the first time U.S. brigade combat teams were inserted into European divisions.

Another first during the exercise was the implementation of the Army Interoperability Measurement System. The system assessed current interoperability levels between the units.

U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command's Center for Army Lessons Learned collection and analysis teams are gathering observations, lessons, and best practices to input into AIMS.

Garrett said communication was the key to success. For instance, he said some American Soldiers who spoke French even helped aid in that communication. "Our ability to communicate naturally is something we continue to learn, continue to work at, and continue to get better at," he said.

As with other events in recent months, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic created challenges for Army leaders to overcome.

"What we have done over the last year, and what we do every day, is continue to master our ability to operate in a COVID environment," Garrett said. "I talked to the French leadership and the British leadership, [and] it was not lost on me all the things they had to do to exercise, to meet our training objectives."

While the exercise is done, the lessons learned from it could carry over for some time, he said.

"As we continue to unpack this, there are going be a lot of useful lessons that will help drive future exercises," Garrett said, adding, "we can improve on the interoperability that already exists out there."

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