Sunday, May 22, 2016

We're the very best mindset...a warning to US ground forces.

I'm beating on a drum.  US ground forces are living off past glory, suffering from a top down emphasis on counter insurgency, and being neglected when it comes to defense dollars.  I consider the performance of our team in the armor competition as a warning sign.  Many disagree.  That's ok, I'm waiting on the Armor school houses both in the Marine Corps and Army to weigh in on that.  In the meantime check out this article by LTC Terrence Buckeye, US Army that was recently published in the Armor Magazine.  He talks about the training of Australian Officers, but his closing points are breathtaking.  via Armor Magazine...
“We’re the best” mindset. Heavy brigade combat teams (BCTs) performed very well during the CAM battles against the hapless Iraqi army in 1991 and 2003. Our senior leaders relentlessly tell us we are the best Army in the world. These considerations certainly do not prompt us to question the efficacy of our training. However, we might benefit from questioning our assumption of superiority and consider that our measures of comparison have been poor. The Australian Armoured Corps would be a good place to start.
The other take aways that he highlighted (read the gave me new appreciation for what the Australian Army is doing!)...
*Armor Branch identity and core competency. Armor Branch has suffered an identity crisis in the last 15 years as we have evolved from CAM experts into a jack-of-all-trades branch. Iraq and Afghanistan were both infantry-centric operational environments that prompted us to focus on wide-area security (WAS) over CAM. Modularity further disaggregated tank battalions, division cavalry squadrons and armored cavalry regiments (ACRs). This diluted the resident CAM expertise once found in those units. The Armor School’s move to Fort Benning to join the Maneuver Center of Excellence was part of a larger Army-wide trend that favored generalizing over specializing. This identity crisis is apparent in ABOLC now. Armor lieutenants are assigned to infantry BCTs, Stryker BCTs and armored BCTs. While this presents more opportunities for Armor officers, it also makes it difficult for courses like ABOLC to focus training.                                                           • Gunnery Table VI (GTVI) qualification equals tactically competent crew. Throughout the Armor community, we operate on the core belief that an AFV crew’s training culminates with qualification on GTVI. We confuse the technical proficiency that comes from GTVI qualification with tactical competence. Driving down a range road, executing predefined engagements in a flat and open area and using perfect vehicle fighting positions constructed from concrete is hardly tactical. We see the same issue in the structure of ABOLC. Once the crew phase is complete with the gunnery live-fire, the lieutenants skip over individual AFV tactics and jump straight into collective training at the platoon level. We are missing a fundamental building block in tactical competence by equating GTVI qualification with a tactically competent crew.                                                                             • Loss of experience in AFV tactical maneuver. The focus for the Army and Armor Branch during the last 14 years has understandably been stability operations and counterinsurgency (COIN). Not surprisingly, this produced a generation of officers and noncommissioned officers (NCOs) who have little to no experience in executing CAM tasks. We find ourselves in a blind-leading-the-blind cycle where neither our schoolhouses nor our company/battalion leaders know how to train tactics. With companies and battalions unable to competently run quality tactics training, the Armor School must assert itself as the standard bearer for mounted-maneuver tactics training. Conversely, Australian schools and training centers have remained focused on CAM during the last 14 years, despite deploying as frequently as we do.
• Risk aversion to AFV maneuver live-fire training. Nothing tests a student’s ability to maneuver an AFV, a section or a platoon better than the stress of maneuvering while live-firing. In the U.S. Army, we like to conduct our live-fire training on built-up ranges and our maneuver training with Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System equipment in dry training areas. When we do conduct a platoon or company live-fire, the exercise is so heavily choreographed and controlled that it loses almost any value as tactical training. This separation between live-fire gunnery and maneuver training stems from a debilitating focus on risk aversion. Australians view live-fire training as part of the natural training continuum for maneuver training. They build their live-fire battle runs on the same land they use for dry training. The routine manner in which Australians conduct maneuver live-fire training is impressive; it begs the question, “Why can’t we do the same thing?”
• Substituting field training with simulations. Simulators are an inadequate replacement for field training. If we want to train our lieutenants to think and lead effectively, they need to be regularly confronted with the environmental impediments to effective thinking and leading. Simulators fail to adequately replicate environmental factors (extreme heat/cold, precipitation, dust, mud and wind), physiological factors (fatigue, hunger, dehydration, pain, discomfort, live-fire fratricide stress) and mechanical factors (weapons malfunction, communications problems, thrown tracks, mired vehicles).
• Overreliance on technology. We implicitly assume our technological overmatch will compensate for any tactical shortcomings in future conflicts. Many assume that technologies like Blue Force Tracker (BFT) and Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2) negate the need to be able to navigate off a map...
Like I said read the entire article.  It seems like Australian Armor Officers are trained to an almost Ranger standard physically and then taught to fight their vehicles like each and every one of them is to be a Sullivan award winner.

This article was aimed at Heavy Brigade Combat Teams and the training of officers but it applies to US ground forces as a whole.  I hope people are paying attention.  Every one of the deficiencies in training that he talks about is creeping thru all branches and services.  If we're not careful it will bite us.

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