A Laboratory for Preparing Forces to Win in a Complex World
William R. Orkins
The U.S. Army Operating Concept: Win in a complex world (TRADOC PAM 525-3-1) (AOC) is the strategy for operating in the world from 2020-2040. An unpredictable environment requires adaptability, perseverance, and above all, innovation. Currently, the Army is undergoing a strategic downsizing commensurate with post WWII and is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. To address the national security challenges involving land power it is imperative for increased discipline and innovation to solve complex problems while simultaneously adjusting to fiscal constraints imposed by the realities of global economic pressures. Developing a dominate land power force described in the AOC necessitates experimentation and an understanding that the answers will not be “one size fits all”, but the best solutions will likely originate from combined and multinational exercises. The Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) at Hohenfels, Germany is a laboratory for creating solutions to address the unknowable complex problems in the future.
JMRC exists to train both U.S. and multinational partners in conducting decisive action training exercises (DATE), and for examining how to address challenges associated with multi-national interoperability. The approach is congruent with the AOC that admits “the Army will conduct operations as part of joint, interorganizational, and multinational teams.[i]” The framework consists of integrating U.S. and European partners during high intensity conflict scenarios including movement to contact, preparing for defense, and the decisive attack all while simultaneously being confronted by conventional and nonconventional forces. In essence, the training provides a way to use the conventional force to apply pressure against potential adversaries in phase 0 environments.[ii] The uniqueness lies not within the standard three part conflict scenario that includes civilian and terrorist complexities, but rather it is the application of multiple countries working together as a team to solve a set of complex problems. Results often show that U.S. commanders gain a valuable understanding of non U.S. military capabilities and the challenges of integrating those capabilities into the U.S. Army operational constructs such as the seven warfighting functions.
Requirements for Current and Future Forces
In order to meet the harbingers of future conflict outlined in the AOC it is important that we consider the shortcomings of U.S. doctrine, NATO doctrine, and partner nation doctrine to create a system that is adaptable to whatever security dilemma is faced by our nation or our partners. During the post OIF and OEF world, it is understandable that each U.S. service will focus heavily on their own “refit” strategies to develop new doctrine, and compete to acquire new weapons systems. However the U.S. Army in particular, must ensure during this refit process that multinational interoperability is not lost in the quest for perfection of U.S. dominated Unified Land Operations (ULO). JMRC offers the medium which US forces based in Europe and regionally aligned forces (RAF) can continue to address the challenges of interoperability in the 21st Century. The U.S. will likely find that all future conflict will require a coalition of the willing. Challenges endured during training rotations are critical to developing the appropriate doctrine and command mindset to facilitate a rapid coalescence of militaries to address security challenges even in the absence of identical doctrine or similar operational approaches. Moreover, a venue for “Army forces [to] engage regionally to ensure interoperability, build relationships based on common interests, enhance situational awareness, assure partners, and deter adversaries” is as important as developing new weapon systems.[iii]
A common aphorism within the national security realm is the DOD fights the current war with the last war’s techniques. This is increasingly problematic with the expansion of hybrid warfare as seen in Ukraine[iv]. As an organization operating ahead of that dictum, JMRC offers no text book or doctrine that training units can follow that will give them the answers to the test. Only through creative leadership, disciplined initiative, and applying lessoned learned can a U.S. brigade combat team incorporate the strengths of multinational partners. Training rotations fit not only within the theoretical unpinning of the AOC, but rather execute the strategic guidance of the DOD Priorities for 21st Century Defense, and USEUCOM 2015 Posture Statement through the European Reassurance Initiative by building partnership capacity[v] [vi]. Operationally, JMRC achieves the enduring USAREUR lines of effort and associated objectives to ensure land forces are trained and relationships are built with partner militaries. Tactically, BDE and below elements are tested, trained, and certified to conduct complex multinational operations.
The development of partner national capacity and improvement in interoperability must not be viewed as a U.S. only outcome. Partner nation forces improve by returning to the training center multiple times while partnering with different U.S. forces each time. While each RAF will contend with the challenges of deploying and redeploying a force from CONUS to the EUCOM AOR, the partners are challenged by operating with different operating and command styles than the U.S. unit. For instance, the 1st Brigade 1st Cavalry Division was the first CONUS based unit to participate in Operation Atlantic Resolve (OAR) and train with multinational forces at JMRC. Improvements occurred by both the U.S. and partner forces, but 1/1 CAV and their partners were expeditionary in the sense it was the first execution of the RAF. The second RAF, 1st Brigade 3rd Infantry Division, has shown increased efficiencies in interoperability and has completed additional training throughout the AOR that indicates an increase in institutional knowledge by both the U.S. and partner forces. JMRC facilitates additional short notice exercises known as “Freedom Shock” to stress both U.S. and partner units outside of the Hohenfels Training Area on river crossings, live fire events, and so on.[vii] These events enable RAFs and USAREUR based units to increase their ability to operate with partner forces on a more frequent and in a less time consuming manner.
Achieving national and theater level objectives requires the ability for multiple militaries to coalesce at the same time and place with common goals. Given the financial and geographical constraints of conducting multinational training in CONUS, bringing U.S. forces to Europe is the only viable option to continuously train militaries from over a dozen nations at one time. Short notice “Freedom Shock” events and extended DATE rotations are the foundation for creating human and organizational networks to deter regional and global adversaries.
Lasting Knowledge and Adaptable Training
Although U.S. units that train in “the box” at Hohenfels learn valuable lessons, there is still room for improvement for the training audiences and JMRC. First, the leadership of each unit must capture their experiences in writing and publish them for consumption by U.S. and multinational audiences. This includes professional articles, and externally published after action reviews (AARs) following the completion of the training events, and increased multinational participation during planning cycles. The value of sharing the knowledge is that each rotational training event varies widely from the previous rotations. Different multinational partners participate, the scenarios are adjusted, different U.S. Reserve and National Guard units are attached to the active duty BDE, and the training focus alters from Armored BCT conflict to preparation for peace and stability operations in Kosovo. Even U.S. units that conduct successful rotations at NTC and JRTC find the training events at JMRC add level of complexity well beyond CONUS training. The outcome of the variance in training leads to the innovation required by the AOC “to anticipate future demands, stay ahead of determined enemies, and accomplish the mission.[viii]”
Second, much like General George Washington could not succeed in decisively defeating the British without the aid of the French, the other CTCs must determine on how to include multinational participants in each of their rotations with the assistance of JMRC. Conducting a DATE rotation at Fort Irwin with a U.S. only force is only beneficial to a limited extent. Units can master platoon through brigade tactics, but that mastery is biased when trying to understand how to involve a partner (e.g. Thailand, Canada, and Jordan) in a real world situation. Training with multinational partners must become the norm to develop enduring TTPs and doctrine. As it stands now, the two European based BCTs and the rotational RAF units that train at JMRC do not produce enough volume to fully exercise all warfighting functions with multinational partners in order to generate doctrine to meet the security needs of the 21st century.
JMRC rotations are relatively short, with only 7-8 days of force on force training (X-days), and helping commanders create multiple dilemmas for the adversary is difficult to accomplish. For units that conduct multiple rotations at JMRC (e.g. RAF units) they should see their second rotation with in an altogether different training model that may include extended, or altered, X-days allowing time to truly understand the adversary, understand their multinational partner capabilities, and learn how to create multiple dilemmas to complicate the OPFOR scheme of maneuver. There is always some degree of leadership turnover between rotations that would make this difficult, but increasing the complexity through altering X-day training provides time for commanders and staff to create adaptive and innovative solutions called for in the AOC.
Most importantly, JMRC and the other CTCs would benefit from instituting experimental designs into the training rotations. Current AARs and internal IDRs (issue, discussion, recommendation) include observations and conclusions that lead to confirmation bias by using the available information to support previously held views. This is not done with unjust intent; rather it is a human tendency to justify the investment in time and effort. With MILES data, communication recording, movements, etc. the training center collects enough data to have an epistemological approach for enhancing training methods. For instance, problem statements and hypotheses are developed and data is collected throughout the rotation to conduct statistical and qualitative analysis to confirm or deny the pre-rotation hypotheses. An example would be determining the level of multinational involvement during the planning process throughout a training rotation. Multinational participation is normally higher at the beginning of the rotation and steadily declines. Applying an experimental design will show if this is true statistically, and provide the CTC planners with the ability to adjust the training conditions to ensure that multinational interoperability and building partner capacity is being achieved. Moreover, the results will increase the institutional knowledge needed for the U.S. Army to contribute to the global land network of relationships.[ix]
Moving Forward and Preparing for the Unknowable
The JMRC laboratory must, and will, extend beyond the training area at Hohenfels to learn new ways to build partner capacity and enhance multinational interoperability. Military to military training events such as Freedom Shock, Rapid Trident, and Saber Junction, to name a few will only increase in size, scope, and frequency. These events need adaptable planners and observer coach trainers (O/C-T) to not only add training value, but to capture the unique approaches developed during complex exercises and share them with the wider force. Experimental approaches and adaptable training models instituted at JMRC will lead to understanding not only how to operate against an adversary, but also to understanding how to operate with partners effectively.
The takeaway from JMRC training events is that the U.S. does not operate in a vacuum, and is unlikely to fight unilaterally any time soon. The British learned that tough lesson during the Falkland War. The U.S. learned this during Vietnam, and the examples of “go at it alone” going badly continue throughout history. U.S. operations and doctrine are sound in their own right, but lack specific guidance regarding incorporation of allies and partners, especially when achieving the goals of AOC. JMRC provides the setting with which interoperability doctrine is formulated and tested; planning and execution of large scale military-to-military events throughout Europe are achieved; and proficient use of O/C-Ts in a Phase 0 environment is demonstrated. By thoroughly exploiting this complex network of challenging training and multinational military exchanges, the U.S. can create multiple dilemmas for potential adversaries.
Breedlove, Phillip. 2015. "United States European Command Posture Statement: Hearing Before the House Armed Services Committee, 114th Congress." Washington DC.
Command, United States Army Training and Doctrine. 2014. "The U.S. Army Operating Concept: Win in a Complex World (TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1)." Fort Eustis.
Dixon, Jesiah. 2015. "Multinational units conduct assault river crossing operations." The Official Homepage of the United States Army. June 6. http://www.army.mil/article/150106/Multinational_units_conduct_assault_river_crossing_operations/.
Garamone, Jim. 2015. "NATO Commander Breedlove Discusses Implications of Hybrid War." U.S. Department of Defense News. March 23. http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=128430.
United States Department of Defense. 2012. "Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for a 21st Century Defense." Washington DC.
[i] United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, The U.S. Army Operating Concept: Win in a Complex World (TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1) (Fort Eustis, VA: 2014), 8.
[ii] This consists of an environment prior to open hostilities that includes both military and interagency activities to shape the perceptions of partners and adversaries in a manner that ensures success. Militarily this includes such activities as building partner nation military capacity, improving information exchange among partners, gaining access to a given location, and developing multinational operating procedures.
[iii] Ibid, 17.
[iv] Jim Garamone, “NATO Commander Breedlove Discusses Implications of Hybrid War,” U.S. Department of Defense News, March 23, 2015. http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=128430
[v] United States Department of Defense, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for a 21st Century Defense (Washington, DC: 2012), 3.
[vi] United States European Command Posture Statement: hearing Before the House Armed Services Committee, 114th Cong., (February 25, 2015)(statement of Phillip Breedlove, Commander of U.S. Forces Europe), 14.
[vii] Jesiah Dixon, “Freedom Shock: Army Europe, Ready at a Moment's Notice,” U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs, June 6, 2015, http://www.army.mil/article/150106/Multinational_units_conduct_assault_river_crossing_operations/?from=RSS.
[viii] United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, The U.S. Army Operating Concept: Win in a Complex World (TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1) (Fort Eustis, VA: 2014), 22.
[ix] Ibid, 17.