WASHINGTON — During the Global War on Terror, rotations to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, and the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, became a universal experience for soldiers across the Army.
But they have also long been a headache for planners, especially those in Hawaii and Alaska.
Now, the Army is bringing JRTC out to Hawaii for its first ever “home-station Combat Training Center rotation,” which begins Tuesday for the 25th Infantry Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
The Schofield Barracks unit will embark on an “archipelago” training scenario with the assistance of observer-controller-trainers dispatched from JRTC at Fort Polk, according to a media release from the division. The rotation will include portions of the division’s aviation, artillery and sustainment brigades, as well.
A second exportable rotation is scheduled during fiscal 2022 for Army Alaska forces.
The new “exportable” CTC rotations have many advantages for both the training unit and the Army as a whole, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth told Army Times.
“The exportable rotations are useful in a few different ways,” she said. “I think it provides our folks the opportunity to train in the environment where they would be operating…and it also allows us to use our equipment in that terrain to see how our equipment holds up to see what unique sustainment challenges we might have.”
The sustainment question looms large for units operating in Alaska’s Arctic environment, Wormuth added.
Another reason to embrace the exportable rotation concept is pragmatic, she said — it’s more cost-effective in an era when the Army budget is experiencing “downward pressure.”
“It saves money because obviously we’re not having to bring these brigades all the way [to the mainland with] all of their equipment,” she said. “That takes a lot of time, [and] the transportation costs are not insignificant.”
Training in theater also offers increased chances for multinational training.
“[These rotations] also frankly create some opportunities to again work with some of our allies and partners who are interested in some of those training opportunities,” Wormuth noted. “[Even] in Alaska, our European allies — the Scandinavian countries, Norway [and] Canada — they’re very interested in combined training with us in cold weather environments.”
According to the Honolulu Star Advertiser, troops from Thailand and Indonesia will be joining in the Hawaii rotations beginning Tuesday.
If these first two exportable rotations succeed, they may be used increasingly in the future, due in part to the funding challenges that the Army may face.
“We’ll want to see how we are doing in these first few rotations, but at least conceptually…[increasing them is] something that we’ll want to look at if they go well,” Wormuth said. “We’re really going to have to be looking for how we can operate as efficiently as possible.”
Wormuth added that the Army will continue to explore unconventional concepts to meet operational needs and reduce spending moving forward.
“We need to find innovative ways to do some things differently that help us achieve our objectives, but if it can create cost savings, I’m very interested in that.”
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood's WWII movies.