Looking at the future fight: Joint Warfighting Assessment offers Army ‘triple payoff’

Army photograph by Staff Sgt. Kalie Frantz

Readiness. Joint force cooperation. Strengthening the Army of today and tomorrow. These were the elements chosen to create the perfect training exercise.

Then the U.S. Army added two extra ingredients to the concoction: the U.S. Air Force’s Blue Flag 18 and Combined Resolve X exercises.

Thus, the Joint Warfighting Assessment (JWA) 18 was born.

“It’s really an experimentation platform,” explained Lt. Col. Mark Glaspell, Capabilities Analysis Branch chief. “The JWA 18 gives us what we like to call the ‘triple payoff.’ We get to improve readiness, we get to look at joint multinational interoperability and do force modernization … with concepts and capabilities.”

The JWA 18, the Army Chief of Staff’s capstone event, features live and constructive elements and that take place in the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels training areas, Germany. The exercise offers the Army and joint forces the largest joint operational exercise to conduct future force development by evaluating concepts and capabilities in an integrated, fully contested and operationally rigorous environment.

“As part of Joint Warfighting Assessment 18, CBRX allows for a brigade to go out into the field and train an entire organization in [their] functions in a decisive action environment,” said Col. Raul E. Gonzalez, Integrations and Assessment Division chief. “Taking that and then providing additional concepts and capabilities helps to build readiness — they [Soldiers] are experimenting with different systems, exploring different concepts and going up against a live, thinking OPFOR [opposing force].”

U.S. Army M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles are staged in preparation for movement, Grafenwoehr, Germany, April 21, 2018.

An operation such as JWA offers an efficient way to collectively advance joint and alliance interoperability, future force development, and unit training readiness priorities. Part of developing those priorities includes the extensive planning process required to operate in the training environment.

“Understand that there’s a building process to this,” said Gonzalez, assigned to the Joint Modernization Command at Fort Bliss, Texas. “You don’t just show up to this type of environment and just operate. These are commanders at all levels, as low as the squad all the way through the brigade, have done a lot of preparation in order to come out to great training center like Hohenfels [Training Area] and exercise all their battlefield functions.”

While conducting battlefield functions, JWA 18 allows the Army to evaluate emerging concepts and integrate new technologies through feedback directly from Soldiers in the field. Examples of the 27 concepts and capabilities being assessed include the Tactical Power Management Concept, Ground Mobility Vehicle, Light Reconnaissance Vehicle, Mobile Protected Firepower, the Robotic Complex Breach, Small Unit Water Purifier, division and below Short-Range Air Defense Capability and Stryker Directed Energy at the Forward Edge.

Brig. Gen. Joel Tyler (right), commanding general of the Joint Modernization Command, explains capabilities to Hon. Dr. Bruce Jette, assistant secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, Hohenfels, Germany, April 26, 2018. Various military and civilian officials came to Hohenfels to see how the Joint Warfighting Assessment (JWA) helps the Army evaluate emerging concepts, integrate new technologies, and promote interoperability within the Army, with the other services, U.S. allies, and partners.

“We get a real good assessment of the concepts and capabilities because they’re being utilized in real world readiness exercises,” explained Glaspell, a native of Logan, Ohio. “At the end of the day, it’s going to go to a Soldier in the field, so you have to see it in that context. In a lab, there are controls, and on the technical side it may work, but does it work when it’s wet, dirty, cold outside and the Soldier has thrown it in his rucksack for a week? You don’t get those aspects of an assessment by testing it in a lab.”

Having the opportunity to test concepts and capabilities in Germany provides the additional benefit of ensuring future force development maintains positive synchronization with partner nations.

“Looking at our future fight, no one army, no one nation is going to be able to do it on its own,” Gonzalez said. “It’s going to take partnership, and in order to operate as a joint force, it’s going to be important that we practice with each other. We work with our partner nations, we synchronize and make sure … we can work alongside [them] and maneuver to have a decisive advantage on the battlefield.”

Col. James Bartholomees, commander of 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), greets multinational distinguished visitors, Hohenfels, Germany, April 26, 2018.