Training has always been, and always will be, the cornerstone of our readiness program. Nothing on the digital battlefield will preclude the need for tough, demanding, realistic training at both the individual and collective training levels. Always remember--technology isn't the panacea for poor training. Soldiers and units will perform in combat exactly how we trained them to perform in our peacetime training. As a result, we must always make training "Job One."
Regardless of whether you are training individuals or teams, you must first train the soldiers in the basics--the blocking and tackling. This will never change. Soldiers and their units must be grounded in the basics. They must understand their people, their equipment, their standing operating procedures (SOPs)--everything that we have always reinforced in training. We still must teach our individual soldiers the common skills that will keep them alive in combat. Platoons and company/teams must still be able to move with authority (in and out of contact), take actions on contact, hit what they shoot at, report accurately, and mark and bypass obstacles.
Once we are convinced that our soldiers and units are proficient in the basics, then we can turn our attention to the new technology. We must first spend time teaching the technology--what it does, how it operates, how it is repaired. We must understand in detail the capabilities of the systems.
After everyone on the team understands the technology in detail, then the training program must shift its focus to take advantage of the technology, with the focus on the application of the technology to the basic skills. Proper utilization of information technology should improve our lethality, survivability, and ability to manage the tempo of the battlefield, but this will only occur if we have trained our individuals and units to apply this technology to already existing basic skills.
Battle staff training is an extremely complex and demanding piece of the digital training puzzle. Battle staffs exist at all levels, from company to corps. Battle staffs are where the information is fused and integrated. Battle staffs take the available information, apply it against information requirements the commander has articulated, and present the information to the commander when he needs it and in the format he desires. We have always expected our battle staffs to be able to (1) produce an order in a timely fashion that might work, (2) track the battle, and (3) make recommendations to the commander. But while these collective skills are still critical, they aren't sufficient enough to truly capture the power of information technology.
On the digital battlefield of tomorrow, we must have hyper-proficient staffs who understand what's required of them as individual staff members, but more importantly, what's required of them as a member of an integrated staff. They must work together continuously. This doesn't happen accidentally; it is a result of a detailed battle staff training program.
Battle staff training must happen routinely, and probably as frequently as once a week. The commander must be involved in the battle staff training. He must lead the staff through mission analysis. He must personally craft and carefully articulate his commander's intent for the operation. He must detail information requirements, both friendly and enemy, to his staff. He must work with the staff on a detailed wargame of the operation. He must lead them through a series of potential branches and sequels based on the enemy doing something unexpected.
The battle staff training should be focused on specific vignettes that force the staff to use all of the available systems to access and integrate information. Logical vignettes, based on experience at NTC, would include battlespace management, response to enemy air attack, movement control and penetration box operations.
The major difficulty with battle staff training is the overhead required to plan, conduct, and provide an after-action review (AAR) of the training event. We must develop a low overhead driver for digital battle staff training. Simply put, this would be a training location (a battle staff conduct of fire trainer, if you will) where the commander could take his staff, turn on a switch, and conduct training. Some simulation must be connected to the ABCS boxes to cause information to be populated to the various systems. Battle staff training could then focus on the acquisition of that information, the integration of the information, and the presentation of the information to the commander.
In line with the low overhead driver, we must have a digital AAR capability. After the battle staff training session, we must be able to "go back in time" and see what information was available when (and where) as part of the AAR. Snapshots of all the boxes must be available (what was the operator on screen "X" looking at time "Y") for the AAR.
This is truly a team sport. Building the team and accepting new people onto the team as quickly as possible are difficult training challenges. The staff and subordinate commanders must think like the commander, to reach a point in their relationship where they can actually anticipate what he is going to say next. Commanders must spend time with their subordinates, routinely telling them what they are thinking and why. And this time must be spent in a variety of settings: social, garrison, and, most importantly, in tough, demanding training exercises.
Teams come in many fashions in units (digital or analog): standing teams (such as established battle staffs), ad hoc teams (targeting teams), and informal teams. To make these teams as effective as they can possibly be, tough, demanding training is essential. If we expect the team to work well together in a stressful, demanding situation, we must make the training replicate that scenario. The key in each situation is to routinely subject the team to situations that cause them to bond.
All training must include a non-cooperative, thinking, adaptive enemy. We cannot allow commanders to control both the friendly and enemy forces in training events. That is just too easy. There must always be an opposing force (OPFOR) commander whose primary purpose is to defeat your unit, to cause you to do something that you did not want to do. There must be, in all training exercises, an OPFOR who is continually looking to concentrate his strengths against your weaknesses.
All training must be evaluated. We must develop a core of "digital O/Cs" (observers/controllers) who have had personal experience in developing, training, and fighting with digital systems. These digital O/Cs must be present to help commanders develop their training programs, and to evaluate training as it is conducted. They must be there to facilitate AARs, and to capture lessons learned and feed them back into the next training cycle.
A major issue is how to you forge high performance units that are task-organized just prior to the execution of a complex mission. In other words, how do you facilitate the bonding of the new element with the rest of the organization? A major solution to that particular problem is standardization. Such items as TACSOPs (tactical standing operating procedures), in particular, need to be standardized. This can also be facilitated by early identification of potential missions. This allows the commanders to establish that personal contact (either by e-mail, video-teleconferencing, or personal visits.)
A key element in training digital organizations is ensuring that all subordinates have confidence in the technology. If commanders and staffs are hesitant to use the technology because they believe it is unreliable or inefficient, then they will not train on it. Information that appears on the screen must be taken at face value and not second-guessed. This can only be accomplished by repetitive, properly resourced training events in which the technology is used. Confidence in the technology can only be attained by using it routinely with good results.
Digital skills are extremely perishable. If soldiers (and leaders) don't use the technology on a routine basis, they will lose the needed skills. We must make an effort to provide a garrison capability for day-to-day digital operations. For example, we should put the ABCSs in all headquarters (corps through battalion), and use those systems for day-to-day operations (passing taskings and e-mail communication). In addition, we should put FBCB2 (Force XXI Battle Command Battalion/Brigade and Below) in company orderly rooms and require that FBCB2 be used in place of e-mail. This will provide for operator sustainment training.
We must ensure that in our training programs we are always conscious of the fact that we will have a combination of digital and analog units in our formation. During the March 1999 NTC rotation, the 1BCT included a analog light infantry battalion from Hawaii as well as a National Guard Aviation unit. This will always be the case--so we must prepare for this in our training programs. Establishing properly equipped, properly trained digital liaison officer (LO) teams can facilitate this. Most importantly, battle staffs must be prepared to disseminate plans and orders both digitally (over ABCSs for example) and by analog means (good old-fashion acetate and grease pencils).
The bottom line: We as an Army can take advantage of information technology now with a good, detailed, well-resourced training program. There is "goodness" in the technology as it currently exists. We can access this goodness by training our soldiers and our units on how to leverage that technology.
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