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National Training Center Scenarios

In the 1980s the pop-up targets on Army firing ranges were shaped like a little green communist nicknamed "Ivan." He was a grimacing foe, with a red star on his uniform and an AK-47 in his hands. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the face of the enemy is not so clear. Former communist countries are looking a lot less Soviet in their fighting style, with many deviating from or abandoning Soviet doctrine. As a result, opposing forces at combat training centers worldwide are changing the way they wage "war" against America's high-tech Army.

The Army has four locations where opposing forces go up against units on rotation through the combat training centers. The scenarios usually portray the OPFOR as soldiers of Krasnovia, a fictional country hostile toward westerners. There are OPFORs at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La.; the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.; and the Combat Maneuver Training Center in Hohenfels, Germany. The fourth is a virtual OPFOR at the Battle Command Training Program at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. The computer-simulated enemy is used to train battle staffs in digitized tactical operations centers. A validation team from U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command keeps tabs on all four OPFORs by conducting semiannual validation visits to see how well they are "fighting." The team, which falls under TRADOC's deputy chief of staff for intelligence, helps keep OPFOR doctrine current, helps upgrade their equipment and makes sure they are fighting to standard.

During the Cold War the OPFOR was a threat-based sparring partner for American soldiers who were training to fight waves of communists. Doctrine was taken straight from Warsaw Pact manuals. Since 1983, three Army Field Manuals dealing with the tactical Soviet Army (FM 100-2-1, FM 100-2-2 and FM 100-2-3) have been written and widely distributed throughout the force. These manuals have served as the primary threat documents for all training center, school and unit threat training. The School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) studied Soviet operational art and its graduates incorporated and inculcated these concepts into the force. AirLand Battle Doctrine (ALB) and AirLand Battle Future (ALBF) adapted much from Soviet operational thought as they prepared the force to combat a Soviet threat both operationally and tactically.

In the early 1980s, the NTC began using the Soviet model for three reasons. First, the Soviets were our most potent opponent. Second, they had the most complete and dramatically different doctrine from that of America; the Army could learn from them. Finally, they were exporting their doctrine. Until November of 1991, the NTC had only used the first reason as the justification for building a Soviet-style motorized rifle regiment.

But that threat crumbled with the Berlin Wall. On 9 November 1989, the East-West German border fell. By December 1991 the Soviet Union dissolved. Rather than returning to a generic, mythical "threat" (such as the Circle Trigon force of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s) or training to go after a less capable force, the US Army needed to continue to pit itself against the toughest competition. Some proposals postulated a Nicaraguan, Cuban or North Korean threat model; however, these models did not provide a real mid- to high-intensity threat, and their political fortunes are open to grave doubt. Moreover, these threats were the responsibility of theater commanders who must prepare for contingencies. The US Army could afford to reinvent a threat annually or train exclusively against a second-string opponent.

A new NTC OPFOR order of battle was produced in May 1993. This new order of battle had increased technology and capability built into the OPFOR. The new order of battle showed variation between units, similar to the former Soviet Unions division of forces West and East of the Ural Mountains under the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. Units have different capabilities depending on the technology available and the education of the commander. Instead of West and East of the Urals, the NTC used North and South of the Arnargosa Mountains at the NTC. The units located South of the Amargosa Mountains (SOTA) are less capable and may have lower technology. The units based North of the Amargosa Mountains (NOTA) have very high technology and are very capable.

The OPFOR portrayed at the National Training Center had been a heavy force model based on the organization and tactics of the armed forces of the former Soviet Union. The new OPFOR had the same basis but incorporated readily available modern technology, and continued to be less stereotypical and predictable, with commanders showing more tactical flexibility. The new OPFOR continued to be the most dangerous OPFOR in the world.

An earlier plan was based upon five representative threat countries. When this plan was briefed to the Army's leadership, it was judged to be too complicated and the NTC was directed to develop a simpler, more generic concept. This new approach had the approval of the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Commander and became the basis of the threat used in the TRADOC Common Teaching Scenarios and by the Opposing Forces (OPFOR) at the combat training centers (FTC).

One of the primary objectives of the new concept was to overcome the perceived doctrinal rigidity of the Soviet-based OPFOR as described in the FM 100-2 series. This concept documented a more flexible doctrine that provides OPFOR commanders a wider range of tactical options. This provides a nonpredictive threat where the OPFOR commander can fight the battle as he sees fit, while continuing to ground his actions in a consistent body of documented threat doctrine. Pitting Army leaders against the OPFOR in a variety of imaginative, realistic scenarios helps to develop intuitive, agile, and versatile battle commanders who can read the enemy on the battlefield of the future.

Krasnovia is derived from the Russian word for "red" and "beautiful". It is the Soviet model as incorporated into US training at the NTC and TCDC. NTC has also employed "Atlantican" and "Samaran" models based on Latin American and Iraqi forces. Any country with a little bit of money could buy equipment designed to counter or affect America's digitized Army. The OPFOR is constantly innovating or updating and is not a predictable force. To do that, the OPFOR might employ nontraditional communications such as cell phones and civilian radios -- tactics a technologically disadvantaged country like Krasnovia might employ. The validation team determines those boundaries.

Training realistically is the key. The training centers long offered a sterile fighting environment. But OPFOR commanders are intent on making training rotations feel more like real war. There are more civilians on the battlefield, there are coalition forces to work with -- all these things are being incorporated into training more than ever. OPFOR soldiers, charged with keeping the world's most powerful military force on track, see themselves as the conscience of the Army. The enemy is no longer Ivan. He's Krasnovian -- ever-evolving, capable and wise in the ways of war.

Today's OPFOR no longer fights scenarios with template Soviet maneuvers. Instead, the field manuals adopted a capabilities-based approach to mirror current world situations. The validation team members are the shepherds of this OPFOR doctrine standardization. They use the former Soviet doctrine as a base, not a bible. With possible adversaries being smarter than ever, the team tries to reflect that with a free-thinking OPFOR.

The NTC features what the Army calls the contemporary operational environment, or COE. In US Army training environments, the COE is the environment created by the opposing force (OPFOR) that portrays the military and/or paramilitary forces of a composite of potential adversaries and by manifestations of other COE variables in models and simulations, curriculum in training institutions, and the manning and equipping of training centers. Army training must contain sufficient manifestations of the COE variables to provide realistic conditions that challenge leaders, soldiers, and units, to produce certain training outcomes desired for the legacy, interim, and objective force.

The Army planned to implement COE at the NTC in March 2003, but moved the switch up to May 2002 as the war on terrorism heated up. At the NTC, COE applies not only to the opposing force (OPFOR) the rotating unit will face, but the entire environment in which the unit will operate. The new NTC includes people, burned cars, buildings - all the things that cause friction above and beyond the normal daily business of fighting. Other new features include two trench complexes and a small "mining village" called Limaville, established in fall 2000.

The structure of an NTC scenario is based on the rotational units training needs; these are specified by the division commander. This begins through coordination between the rotational unit and Operations Group at the National Training Center. The enemy situation is built up prior to the units arrival at Fort Irwin, through message traffic, intelligence updates and 120-day packets. Division G-2s pass this message traffic through to the brigade and battalion S-2s. The brigade and battalion staffs then plan and train ahead to counter new weapons or more flexible NTC OPFOR tactics.

Exercise scenarios present a general situation. This situation gives the participants background information normally available in a combat situation. Exercise OPORDs issued from a higher headquarters are the primary instruments used to provide sufficient detail and guidance. This guidance helps the training unit prepare OPORDs, annexes, and overlays. Exercise OPORDs also ensure the training unit takes actions that lead to achieving the training objectives of the exercise. Exercise OPORDs may be identical to standard OPORD formats (see FM 5-0 [FM 101-5]). They may use traits that facilitate modularity, retraining, administrative conditions, flexibility, and reusability. For example, the dates used in the exercise OPORD may be in terms of training days rather than actual dates. This especially applies for exercises that use simulations. This is true since battlefield conditions can be easily manipulated to allow a unit to repeat a particular day's training with little resource impact. Figure B-1 is a sample of an aviation brigade exercise OPORD that makes use of this feature. It portrays the general scenario. It includes the missions of higher and adjacent units-whether live, virtual, or constructive. It also includes the training that the battalion will conduct.

The NTC's training scenario is set on the fictional island of Tierra Del Diablo. From 1981 through 1997, units which trained at the NTC fought an OPFOR from the fictitious People's Democratic Republic of Krasnovia, a Warsaw Pact nation schooled in traditional Soviet tactics. Elements of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (11th ACR) comprise the 32nd Guards Motorized Rifle Regiment (MRR). Configured in Warsaw Pact-fashion and employing Soviet doctrine, the MRR employ actual threat and visually modified equipment to simulate the Soviet-based conventional force.

The Krasnovian motorized rifle regiment at the NTC is task-organized into four reinforced motorized rifle battalions, each with a reinforcing tank company habitually associated with it. A "fifth maneuver element" may appear to provide the signature of an adjacent or second-echelon regiment, or a divisional forward or enveloping detachment. Krasnovians have fielded secure tactical FM systems throughout much of its armored and mechanized forces. Krasnovian unit and subunit command nets have recently been active in a secure mode in their garrisons and training areas, indicating that the Krasnovians are in the process of installing and training on these systems. Krasnovia has obtained a large quantity of U.S. Vinson systems.

The geo-political situation in the Tierra Del Diablo region now provides the background for the NTC "Road to War." While the Krasnovians remain the Soviet-style enemy, increasing tensions between the United States, Krasnovia, and the two other principal nations in the region, Pahrumphia and Mojavia, provide an environment complete with civilians on the battlefield and the potential for a wide range of legal issues.

The discovery of weapons grade Uranium in the disputed region of Parumphistan (a province of Mojave) led to increasing tensions between the US, the People's Democratic Republic of Krasnovia (a Warsaw pact nation and Soviet-style enemy), the Kingdom of Parumphia (a Krasnovian ally), and the Republic of Mojave (friendly, democratic, pro-western country). The Baja Republic to the south remains neutral. US troops deploy to Mojave in support of the peace process and to aid in the defense of Mojave if necessary. The other group involved in the region is the Parumphian Peoples' Guerillas (PPG). This is a loosely organized group of terrorists / freedom fighters who want Parumphistan to return to Krasnovian control.

The United Nations resolutions and the resulting embargo, combined with the deployment of rapid deployment forces from the United States, did not bode well for the People's Republic of Krasnovia. Based on the experiences of the Iraqi Army in the Kuwaiti Theater of Operations, every day the Krasnovians waited they became weaker and the Americans stronger. Therefore, the Politburo committed two combined-arms armies to the offensive with adequate aviation assets, and granted authorization for the release of chemical munitions down to division commanders.

The decision resulted in spasms of frenzied planning and demands to the Central Front headquarters for more intelligence. The 11th Combined Arms Army (CAA) planned to attack with three motorized rifle divisions abreast and a tank division in reserve. It's main axis of advance was along Highways 15 and 40. The 60th Guards Motorized Rifle Division (GMRD) was assigned a zone of attack to the north of this and designated the supporting effort. Knowing the enemy would only be able to emplace a partially prepared defense, the 60th GMRD Commander elected to attack with three motorized rifle regiments (MRR) abreast and a tank regiment in the second echelon. The 125th Guards Tank Regiment (GTR) area of operations extended from Fort Irwin Military City north to the Granite Mountains, a width of twenty-five kilometers.

In another scenario, the nation of Mojavia, allied with the United States of America, was invaded by Krasnovia. There are also guerilla forces from Parumphia, a neutral country, working with the Krasnovias to disrupt American combat operations. The initial Americann task is to establish a secure landing zone for follow on forces to enter the Island and restore the sovereign National Boundaries of Mojavia. Units draw a lot of equipment when they arrive at NTC, but they must do so under threat of attack from guerrillas belonging to the Sonoman-Coronan Revolutionary Front, or SCRF, known as "Scruffs." Each rotation features 40 to 60 Scruffs (usually played by Marines).

Throughout reception, staging, onward movement, and integration (RSO&I), units are under the threat of theater ballistic missile attacks from the Krasnovians, who also possess an extensive arsenal of chemical agents. Krasnovian sympathizers in Mojavia conduct demonstrations against the US military presence in the region. The People's Parumphian Guerillas (PPGs) conduct acts of sabotage. PPG sympathizers using radio-scanning equipment bought at an electronics store in Krasnovia are privy to information transmitted in the battalion. The PPGs know what the unit plans to do each day, the combat readiness of the unit, its movement timelines, and the designated routes for the support battalion. Using the information gathered over the airwaves and from local informants friendly to their cause, the PPGs plan to ambush and destroy the support battalion - a high-payoff logistics target - along the route. Using cell phones, they are able to provide their commander with almost real-time information.

The Peoples Parumphistan Guerillas (PPG) represent a paramilitary type force who support the Krasnovian/Parumphian government. These forces are equipped with only the most basic military equipment, characterized by, but not limited to small arms, machine guns, light mortars, hand held anti-tank weapons, and simple mines and demolitions. Many of these weapons are stolen and are typically a mixture of Krasnovian and US weapons. The PPG may utilize military or civilian vehicles and are known to move freely into and out of local towns and villages.

The PPG are organized into cells of approximately 40 personnel operating in squad sized groups. Their Area of Operation encompasses the key towns and mining camps in the area and is normally between 20 and 40 kilometers wide, with the boundaries generally following the major roads and the key terrain overwatching intersections and choke points The PPG are required to establish and maintain a base camp within their Area of Operation and will conduct all operations out of this base camp. As the BCT repositions it may encounter a new PPG cell.

The PPG may travel between their base camp and Irwin Military City in order to resupply or reconstitute personnel. Movement to and from IMC for resupply is competitive. Due to a limited availability of personnel, a number of "lives" (re-keys) are authorized by CBI corresponding to the number of PPG in a cell. PPG casualties or POW's can be reconstituted up to the number of lives authorized by CBI. In order to reconstitute, causalties or POW's will be extracted by a Blackhorse Brother to IMC where they will be required to wait 24 hours. Following the waiting period, the PPG are required to competitively infiltrate into zone to continue operations.

The contingency-based scenarios may give rise to a myriad of issues. A typical scenario is a Humanitarian Assistance operation in which a small, armored task force is dispatched to deliver humanitarian aid. Regular or irregular forces may ambush friendly forces, creating questions on the rules of engagement (ROE), the employment of weapons systems, or the laws applicable to providing assistance to the host nation.

The initial efforts of opposing force (OPFOR) forces to free the province of Parumphistan from Mojave domination are thwarted by the introduction of a US Joint Task Force. Attacks by US precision strike weapons and long-range artillery disrupt OPFOR resupply and second-echelon forces. US and Mojavian forces counterattack to restore the UN-imposed international border. OPFOR forces are withdrawn in an orderly fashion. Some rear guard motorized rifle battalions (MRB) are unable to withdraw before the advancing US-led coalition. These forces have been ordered to conserve their combat power and remain in place until the OPFOR can resume the offensive or link up with them.

Demonstrators push at the gates in attempt to protest against the U.S. compound in "Parumphistan," during a training exercise held at the National Training Center rotation. During the protest, demonstrators were acting in opposition to U.S. presence. Some local residents see the mission as an intrusion on their country, and some have also expressed a fear that a strong U.S. presence, as well as strong comments by regiment leaders during radio and television interviews, will provoke Krasnovian forces, leading to widespread violence and bloodshed in their homeland. Demonstrators brashly approached the closed main gate of the U.S. compound, calling the soldiers pigs and baby killers, violently shaking the gate, kicking dust in soldiers' faces, and undressing and torching an effigy of a soldier. They damaged a "Humvee" parked near the gate, letting air out of the tires and pulling equipment off of the vehicle. Upon seeing the vulnerability of the compound at the pedestrian gate, the demonstrators rushed toward it, broke through and entered the compound. The compound's Quick Reaction Force immediately responded to push back protesters. After a heated and physical confrontation, when protesters forcefully pushed against the military police shields, the QRF team was able to push the protesters back outside the gate.

The NTC Vulture team facilitates the conduct of media events on the battlefield through coordination with Operations Group. The Vulture team may also conduct events in support of INN simulated telecasts. The purpose of media events is to provide soldiers and leaders a realistic encounter with credential or non-credential media. The media events can take place beginning with the arrival of units at NTC and continue through the redeployment to that unit's home station. The person role playing a media representative may ask questions that are far ranging and may not be immediately relevant to the rotation. Role players will not ask questions of soldiers or leaders that are of a degrading, racial, ethnic or sexual nature in order to provoke a negative or emotional response. It is the media role player's responsibility to discuss the range and nature of his questions with the escorting OC prior to executing the event. The role playing media may wear any clothing or uniform that they may deem appropriate. The role player will wear the MILES harness and if practical, the MILES halo at all times. The escorting OC has the responsibility to ensure the role player's equipment is operational prior to the start of the event. If the media event is an unescorted event, the role player will not position himself in such a way as to cause an unsafe act or situation.

Civilians on the Battlefield (COBs) may be encountered throughout the BCT's battlespace. These COBs may be residents or employees of the local towns and mining camps or refugees fleeing conflict. COBs may interact, exchange information, and request assistance with all forces on the battlefield, including the PPG. All COBs will be treated in accordance with the published Rules of Engagement for military operations. COBs and their vehicles may be detained and searched. All pockets of COBs are available to search. The glove compartment of the COB vehicles is a safe zone. COB equipment or vehicles may be confiscated at any time. BLUFOR will not drive any of the COB vehicles. A BLUFOR soldier attempting to physically detain and hand cuff a COB will ensure an OC is present, and notify the OC of his intentions to physically detain the COB. The BLUFOR will talk the OC through the details of how he intends to detain the COB. The OC will tell the COB to replicate the appropriate position.

Key leaders such as the Bde/Task Force Commander, principal staff officers, company commanders, and platoon leaders may be given a second life and if mounted, transfer to another vehicle (jump ship) if their assigned vehicle is assessed. They may do this only with OC approval and only once during a battle. This allows the leadership the training opportunity to continue with specific missions. The OC reserves the right to disapprove second lives in order to develop subordinates.

Training at the National Training Center is as close to what the Army did in Iraq in 2003. It was closer than what some would believe it could be. From the way troops flow into the theater of Krasnovia, to drawing the prepositioned set out, to dealing with the contractors, to establishing all the information nodes that are needed to to build and track the combat power, down to the car bomb used down in the Dust Bowl. The national training center is as close a model to what happened in Iraq as exists. Take the Krasnovians and call them Iraqis and away you go.

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