Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division pull security during training in 2013 at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif. The Army is partnering brigades at combat training centers to make up for lost time and readiness. (Sgt. Eric Garland/Army)
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To make up for lost time and money, the Army has ramped up its combat training center rotations this year.
It is also pairing brigade combat teams with those in the National Guard in an effort to create partnerships, increase training opportunities at home and boost leader development.
“If you’re an active component BCT, you now have a partnered National Guard BCT,” said Col. Dan Williams, a senior planner for Forces Command.
The “cornerstone” event “husbands resources, and makes efficient use of the resources we’ve been given,” he said. “It makes no sense for two components to be training like events on different sides of the same post. We train together when we can.”
The move, inspired by a memo signed in December by the top generals for FORSCOM, the Guard and the Army Reserve, underscores the Army’s “Total Force” mindset and ensures interoperability between the components, Williams said.
Called the Total Force Partnership Program, the pairing of active Army and reserve component formations is designed to promote informal leader development. It also pushes the units to find shared training opportunities and trade lessons learned, said Col. Daniel King, a spokesman for FORSCOM.
The partnered units could do anything from large-scale unit training exercises to individual exchanges. Commanders are to look for opportunities to train together either at home station or during annual training events, King said.
The partnerships also will build relationships that could carry over if a unit deploys, Williams said.
“The idea would be if a BCT were to deploy, it needs to be sustained, and some of that sustainment would potentially be in the reserve component,” he said. “The idea is there are relationships that have been established, and they’re also going to be regionally aligned with us.”
In addition to the BCTs, the Army also is partnering active-duty corps with Guard divisions. Aviation brigades, fires brigades and multifunctional brigades in the two components also are being paired up.
So far, 20 active Army BCTs have been paired with 28 Guard BCTs. Sixteen aviation brigades and seven fires brigades have been partnered.
The partnerships — which are not formal command relationships — were made based on factors such as geography, unit type and pre-existing relationships, Williams said.
Having partnered units in the same state or region makes it easier for them to conduct home station training together, he said. It’ll also facilitate leader development exchanges.
“We’re seeing real progress made at home station with local units, as well as collective training events from platoon on up,” he said.
And as units come home from Afghanistan or other deployments, they will be partnered up as well, Williams said.
“Those that are deployed, when they come back, will get their partnerships,” he said. “It’s a dynamic process. It’s peer-to-peer, it’s flexible, as end-strength and force structure change.”
The partnership program also helps the Army as it works to make up for training time and readiness, lost last year because of budget cuts.
Last year, the Army had to cancel seven BCT rotations at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, and the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
As a result, senior Army leaders last October said that outside of those preparing to deploy to Afghanistan or rotate to South Korea, only two brigade combat teams were combat ready.
This year, plans called for the Army to increase the number of combat-ready brigades to seven by the summer.
The initial plan was to train up two of each type of brigade and an aviation task force.
That has since been “expanded” as the Army is “looking pretty good this year to be fully resourced,” Williams said.
“The concept, as originally briefed, was implemented, and we’re already there, but we also expanded it to include enablers,” he said. “As funds have become available, we’ve been able to expand and get a more robust capability.”
The rotation plan
So far this year, the Army has completed 11 of its 18 planned combat training center rotations.
Of the 18 rotations, 10 will have taken place at the NTC and eight at the JRTC.
Seven of the 18 are set aside for deploying units; projections call for just three rotations for deployers in fiscal 2015, said Skip Larsen, a senior combat training center planner for FORSCOM.
The Army plans to run 17 CTC rotations in 2015, Larsen said.
Each rotation includes units or elements from each component, Williams said.
Guard and Reserve soldiers are incorporated into each active-duty BCT rotation, and active Army troops participate in eXportable Combat Training Capability and war exercises, which are predominantly reserve component events.
The XCTC is a training program that uses live, virtual and constructive training environments to provide brigade-size training in a 21-day time frame.
“We’re fully committed and signed up to train with them,” Williams said.
At the JRTC, trainers are preparing for a rotation with the Vermont Guard’s 86th BCT, said Brig. Gen. William Hickman, commander of JRTC and Fort Polk. A typical training year at JRTC includes 10 rotations, he said.
The soldiers, who will undergo a decisive-action training rotation, will work alongside Guard special operations forces and active-duty units, Hickman said.
A decisive-action rotation includes offense, defense, mission command, sustainment and other core tasks, and it’s meant to prepare units for any type of contingency around the world.
In 2015, there will be five decisive-action rotations and three for units preparing for Operation Enduring Freedom, he said.
JRTC also will host an aviation-centric rotation with troops from the 101st Airborne Division and the 10th Mountain Division, and an exercise for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear troops.
The operations group and trainers at JRTC also are incorporating regional alignment training into the rotations, Hickman said.
In March, when 4th BCT, 1st Infantry Division — which is taking over the Africa Command alignment — came through JRTC, the soldiers faced a scenario in which they were called upon by the U.S. ambassador to a notional country to provide security at the embassy.
The brigade also trained on how to deal with interagency partners; JRTC even enlisted the help of retired U.S. ambassadors to create realistic scenarios, Hickman said.
“The complexity of the scenarios is increasing,” he said.
In the future, because of that complexity, there may be fewer but longer rotations at JRTC, Hickman said. Current rotations run up to 25 days, including time in the field and the Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration process.