April 5, 2012

Teaching Old Tactics to a New Army

By Capt. Peter Seils
Tarantula Team
Staff Sgt. Donald Meyers, Donald and Sgt. Gregory Hill clear the first corner in a trench line during the Decisive Action rotation at the National Training Center in March.

In the years following Sep. 11, the United States Army predominately focused training to oppose the threat of insurgency and terrorism and their unconventional tactics. As a result, the Army excluded the conventional training needed to face a hostile nation/state from a conventional or hybrid threat.  As the United States continues the troop draw down and rotations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom become less frequent, the training focus is transitioning from counter-insurgency to decisive action against a near peer nation with a hybrid threat.

Due to the high turnover rates in the last decade and combat focused training plans, most units and formations have only a theoretical doctrinal understanding on how to accomplish the collective tasks that were prevalent and commonly trained throughout company, battalion and brigade formations in the late 1990’s.

NTC Rotation 12-05 was designed to train echelons at brigade and below on the collective tasks necessary to enter a contested host nation and repel and defeat a near peer threat that use a hybrid of conventional and unconventional tactics. In order to prepare, The Tarantulas had to certify and train our Observer/Coach Trainers (O/CT).  Months out from this decisive action rotation, the Tarantulas had four or five Soldiers on the team who had been involved in this type of CTC rotation.  The Tarantula Team planned and trained in order to turn its largely hypothetical doctrinal knowledge with a sprinkling of experience into a knowledgeable force with enough practical experience to train the rotational Soldiers. The team accomplished this through a series of TEWTs (Training Exercise Without Troops), O/CT professional developments and Decisive Action Situational Training Exercises conducted in coordination with 11th ACR.  Specifically, the team trained on company and battalion breaches, battle drills 5 and 7, (knock out a bunker and clear a trench) mounted battalion and brigade deliberate attack and movement to contact highlighting approach march techniques.

Given the continuous and fluid operations during the force on force portion of the rotation, our OC/T’s time spent in the box increased compared to previous rotations. The rotational training unit experienced four to five major battles in a six day period. The time the rotational training unit had when not actively involved in the mission, was consumed with the crucial planning process and synchronizing their operations across all echelons of command.  The rotational training unit’s leadership did not continually have the luxury of four hours of sleep during its planning cycle.  When H-hour arrived, the unit had to ensure it was prepared to cross the line of departure.  If the unit was late to depart it would de-synch the entire unit’s operation; at worst putting lives at risk in a live fire or at best facilitating failure during a force on force engagement.

The Tarantulas provided OC/T support to 1-15 Infantry Battalion during their situational training exercise lanes, live fire exercises and during four force-on-force battles. In addition, the Tarantula team also provided OC/T support for a one of the battalions conducting a combined live fire exercise (CALFEX).  While the Tarantulas were taxed more severely during rotation 12-05, the learning opportunities for the rotational unit were unparalleled. The decisive action rotations at the National Training Center are the capstone training event for units as they transition from the counter-insurgency fight to the hybrid threats the United States face from hostile near-peer nations or states.


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