For years, Combat Training Centers have conducted mission readiness exercises for units designed to prepare Soldiers for deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Decisive Action Training Environment, or DATE, allows Soldiers to use combat “tools” to solve tactical problems in a wide range of real-world scenarios derived from actual threats across the Army’s Operational Environment, or OE, instead of a training scenario derived from a known deployment location.
“Soldiers want realism as manifested by a well-trained opposing force, good training areas, role players, and all the things that make combat the complex event that it is,” said Gary Phillips, director of TRADOC Intelligence Support Activity. “DATE is not a rehash of yesterday’s headlines about any place in the world.”
The first step in developing DATE was to establish a framework and analysis for capturing the conditions across a particular OE. Studies focused on the notion of ground operations requiring a brigade-size unit and the expected mission essential tasks. The second step was to look at OEs likely to require Army employment in the near to mid-term future.
The scenarios used in the DATE are not an attempt to determine the next deployment location for U.S. ground troops. Instead, the list of particular OEs act as an aid to inform the training community at the Army’s Combat Training Centers the range of potential conditions U.S. ground forces are likely to encounter based on real-world intelligence.
“The DATE scenario is complex and multinodal,” said Brig. Gen. Charlie Flynn, deputy commanding general of operations for the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C. “The changing conditions and variables that units are confronted with place enormous demands on our leaders; they have to remain engaged intellectually and physically. The DATE conditions enable a unit and leader ‘crucible’ at our combat training centers.”
The DATE is further enhanced by scalable exercise design, database creation and manipulation, and OE products from the Training Brain Operations Center, or TBOC, which, like, the TRADOC Intelligence Support Activity, is a component of the TRADOC G-2 OE Enterprise.
For example, in October the TBOC supported the DATE-based mission readiness exercise for the 2nd Cavalry Regiment at the Joint Multinational Training Center in Grafenwoehr, Germany. Using parameters set by official DATE publications, the TBOC created insurgent, para-military and criminal threat networks, including biographic data sheets for more than 220 unique opposing force roles.
It also created historic databases for intelligence reports, imagery products, and open source messages to add complexity and to facilitate training objectives.
“We help units tailor their exercise to their training requirements,” said Jim Slavin, TBOC director. “The customized databases and on-site expertise give units a better understanding of their OE and the asymmetric threats they’ll face in the future.”
There are eight variables used to create the OEs and they center on the political, military, economic, social, information, infrastructure, physical environment, and time components of a particular area. The variables combined with embedded real-world actors create an array of potential threat capabilities that anticipate future conflicts. Together, they create a picture of the environment’s nature and characteristics that would significantly impact the military if deployed to that area of the world.
According to Maj. Keefe Savin, public affairs officer for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, the DATE exceeded expectations during the unit’s recent rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center, known as JRTC, at Fort Polk, La.
“The fact that this was the first time we have been able to do this type of training and the first time this (Decisive Action Training Environment) has been done at JRTC over the last 10-year period — we were impressed with the level of training and professionalism we received and can take back into the force,” Savin said. “The training gave us the final few yards to be ready to answer our nation’s call to deploy anywhere in the world on short notice.”
According to Flynn, the DATE scenarios provide commanders with realistic training that will better prepare them for the combat environment.
“When the complexity of the environment is coupled with the operational tempo, it places great stress on our units and leaders. It’s something we can’t replicate at home station,” said Flynn. “At the CTCs, units and leaders will make mistakes, but from those mistakes, we will learn — and learning before going to combat will save lives.”