FORT IRWIN, Calif. – The National Training Center is renowned for its reputation as a tough, realistic combat training venue that prepares Brigade Combat Teams and unified action partners for a full range of military operations.
Bronco Team, Operations Group, serves as the primary Observer/Controller Trainer team for coaching, teaching and mentoring BCT commanders and their staffs. While the team oversees the execution of combined arms doctrine, it also has the unique responsibility of mentoring non-lethal staff sections, which also provides Information-Related Capabilities.
This job falls to the Bronco 71 Team, which mentors those warfighting capabilities that are not kinetic in nature – meaning physical force is not required for them to be effective – such as Information Operations, Civil Military Operations and Psychological Operations.
Army Maj. Lucas Overstreet, senior Information Operations and Civil Military Trainer for Bronco Team, discussed the importance of non-lethal effects.
“The non-lethal aspect of modern warfare on the modern battlefield kind of plays to the strategic effects of what happens at the end of a war,” Overstreet said. “Because you’ve seen in history – just recent history in America [such as] Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan – you can win every tactical battle, you can do all sorts of things in the operational realm, but if you’re not influencing the civilian population, if you’re not influencing the perception of what’s going on, you can lose the war, and not achieve your strategic goals.”
“So NTC is one of the few opportunities you have in the Army to really integrate your non-lethal enablers … to integrate them into a maneuver unit where they are doing operations against a dynamic force or dynamic enemy,” Overstreet said.
Overstreet noted there aren’t very many places in the Army to conduct large-scale operations with a complex civil, non-lethal and information environment that can be shaped to influence tactical and strategic operations.
For instance, Overstreet said, the Bronco 71 Team leads scenarios for tasks such as Noncombatant Evacuation Operations, Internally Displaced Persons movements and anything dealing with the civil environment and the cultural aspects of a complex scenario.
“[Those] are the type of problems that if you address one issue, you create a problem somewhere else,” Overstreet said. “And if you try to address that other problem you created, it enhances the problem somewhere else. There’s no perfect solution to it.”
Overstreet also said he “absolutely” feels the Bronco Team has a unique mission training IRC enablers.
“With the decisive action mindset,” Overstreet said, “and the Army core competencies of wide area security and combined arms maneuver, this is a place where a BCT with enablers – with attachments, a robust organization – can practice full spectrum operations.”
One of the challenges the five-man Bronco 71 Team faces is integrating the Civil Affairs and PYSOP teams into the brigade’s large-scale operations because they are non-organic and come to NTC from a reserve unit — U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command.
It’s a challenge trying to integrate anybody from any external unit, but especially units that don’t train on this every single day and have a limited amount of training days per year, Overstreet said.
Bronco 71 Team also focuses on conducting a critical skill necessary to strategic effectiveness – Key Leader Engagements.
“One of our primary functions is to conduct KLEs with the goal of influencing our target audience,” said Army Capt. Steve Wright, a PSYOP OC/T for Bronco Team.
According to Wright, PSYOP teams have the potential to “contribute greatly” when they are properly employed by their higher headquarters.
“They can affect the civilian population; they can affect the enemy military population, and if they are used properly by the supported unit, they have the potential to greatly affect the mission,” Wright said.
Sometimes, Wright noted, the PSYOP teams are not afforded the opportunity to employ their skill sets during scenarios due to certain limitations, thereby, reducing their effectiveness on the battlefield.
“If they are not used,” Wright said, “then their potential to affect the situation is reduced. However, if they are used, then their training is successful or not based on their skills.”
Additionally, Wright said the realistic scenarios PSYOP teams encounter at NTC are critical, because there is no other way to gain these experiences short of actual deployment.
“There’s absolutely no way they could put on that kind of training with their home station unit,” Wright said. “They walk away expressing that, this is some of the best training they’ve experienced.”
Army Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Francis, another PSYOP OC/T for Bronco Team, elaborated on the impact the opportunity to train at NTC affords non-lethal effects teams.
“In the decisive action environment,” Francis said, “a lot more focus can be put on the kinetic fight. So it can leave us out of the fight if the kinetic portion, for example, doesn’t go well, and we don’t ever secure a city for that phase of a mission.”
In that case, PSYOP may not get used very much, Francis added. But, with successful integration, “it gives them a chance to get their feet wet in a realistic environment where we have role players, a pyro team and people who really put on good training for them.”
Francis expressed pride in the Bronco Team’s unique mission, and their contributions to preparing BCTs for potential future deployments.
“We are the only team … on Fort Irwin that has PSYOP, Civil Affairs and IO,” Francis said. “That is a unique aspect to it, and it’s built that way because PSYOP units come in as a brigade asset and then they get sliced down to the battalion level.”
“I would say, in a sense, that we represent all the warfighting functions,” Francis said.