From April 1997 to April 1999, I had the privilege of commanding the 1st Brigade Combat Team (1BCT), 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, TX. The 1BCT at that time was engaged in a series of training events and experiments that were focused on the potential application of information technology to military operations. The 1BCT learned many lessons. This newsletter primarily shares those lessons and makes some specific recommendations about how to best apply information technology to warfighting.
As we in the U.S. Army work our way into the 21st century, we have identified information technology as a critical enabler. We are convinced, intuitively, that the proper employment of information technology will enhance our situational awareness. Ideally, we will have better visibility on where we are, where our buddies are, and where the enemy is. In fact, across all the Services, great work has been done experimenting with information technology. Some have labeled this as experiential learning. We have found that when it comes to working with new technology, we truly learn by doing. We are working our way into uncharted territory: the military applications of information technology. Clearly, we can learn from businesses and industry, and we can postulate the uses of the technology. However, the environment in which the U.S. Army operates is so different from the civilian sector that there are obvious complications.
We owe it to future generations of warfighters to expedite our transition to the battlefield envisioned in the Army Vision. By capitalizing on lessons already learned, and using those as a start point, we can continue to forge ahead. However, a common and accurate phrase to describe our situation is, We don't know what we don't know. More poignantly, however, we don't know what we do know. We must get better at capturing and disseminating lessons learned.
This newsletter focuses on sharing lessons learned across all of the imperatives for change--Doctrine, Organization, Training, Leader Development, Materiel, and Soldiers (DOTLMS)--although not in the order of the standard acronym. These imperatives provide us with a well-established strategic architecture for planning and executing change. It is important to understand upfront, however, that each of DOTLMS imperatives is intertwined--each one is affected by, and affects, the other. The trick is keeping all of these imperatives balanced as we work our way into the future. Each imperative has to be worked, and matured, in concert with the others and not alone. The tendency seems to be to fixate on the Materiel dimension as we harness new technology. We do that with great risk. Technology isn't the panacea for poor training. People and units must understand the new technology and be able to employ it. Doctrine, tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) must be developed and written, and disseminated and understood to use the new equipment. Bottom line: All the imperatives must be worked together--they truly co-evolve.
The mission of the 1BCT was to be prepared to deploy and conduct military operations and to participate in the U.S. Army's experiments, all the while maintaining balanced readiness. In short, we had to be prepared to fight and win our nation's wars, conduct experimentation, and ensure that we provided our soldiers and their families a sound quality of life. Simultaneously managing these three critical missions (warfighting, experimentation, and taking care of soldiers and their families) was a challenge.
During this period, the 1BCT participated in many training events, tests, and experiments. Key events included the following:
- Task Force Advanced Warfighting Experiment.
- Division Advanced Warfighting Experiment.
- Future Battle Command Brigade and Below Limited User Test.
- Corps Warfighter Exercise.
- National Training Center (NTC) rotation.
Each test and experiment had basically the same hypothesis:
If we can improve a unit's ability to have situational awareness (Where am I? Where is my buddy? Where is the enemy?), then we will see improvements in lethality, survivability, and the ability to manage the tempo of the battlefield.
A critical point was that every experiment was transformed as much as possible into a training event. Remember, the primary mission of the Brigade Combat Team was to be prepared to deploy and fight to win our nation's wars. We had to be able to conduct experimentation and train simultaneously.
There is clear power in the use of information technology. We can take advantage of improvements in technology to enhance our ability to fight and win our nation's wars.
It is important to always remember in dealing with advanced technology, especially when it comes to warfighting, the soldier imperative. It is all about the soldiers. We will never replace people on the battlefield. They are the people who make technology work, and we must never forget that.
Always remember--high-tech demands high touch. Human beings want to be talked to, cared for, taught, encouraged. It was true yesterday; it is true today; and it will be true tomorrow.
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