The Army’s combat training centers must implement real-time battlefield threats into pre-deployment training more quickly and cheaply, senior leaders said.

Gen. Robert Abrams, head of U.S. Army Forces Command, and Maj. Gen. Joe Martin, commanding general of 1st Infantry Division, told attendees at the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting that the drawn-out, expensive process of getting gear into the Army’s combat training centers at Fort Irwin, California, and Fort Polk, Louisiana, is hurting readiness.

Asked by an audience member what new training capabilities were needed at the combat training centers, Martin first responded by saying that when he prepped troops to head to Iraq, getting commercial drones incorporated into the training was too complicated.

“Quad copters were like an albatross,” Martin said. “You couldn’t put your arms around how we could field quad copters.”

Once he got to Iraq, he used unit funds and processes to equip Iraqi allies with drones more rapidly than he could train his own soldiers in the training centers, he said.

That’s no way to prepare for an ever-changing enemy.

“I watched adversaries evolve by the day,” Martin said. “That’s how they’re going to counter our tech capabilities and our training.”

Abrams added that the cost issue was a tremendous problem, noting commercial drones being used on the battlefield cost around $400, while similar drones used as programs of record cost in the “five digits.”

“We’ve got to come to grips with this,” Abrams said. “It’s crushing us.”

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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