Academic journal article Military Review

Reinventing the Wheel: Operational Lessons Learned by the 101st Division Artillery during Two Warfighter Exercises

Academic journal article Military Review

Reinventing the Wheel: Operational Lessons Learned by the 101st Division Artillery during Two Warfighter Exercises

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The U.S. Army reactivated active component division artillery (DIVARTY) units in 2014 after a ten-year hiatus. Although the DIVARTY is not a new organizational structure, its latest incarnation comes at a period when critical operational-level fires skills have atrophied. DIVARTY members now find themselves relearning skills that were once common artillery competencies. Additionally, incorporating tactics, techniques, and procedures that operationalize technological innovations and lessons learned in combat during the past fourteen years is a learning challenge.

The 101st DIVARTY reactivated in 2014 and participated in two division-level warfighter exercises (WFXs) in one year. During these exercises, the 101st DIVARTY relearned essential skills, developed new procedures, and had the unique opportunity to re-evaluate lessons learned to identify best practices for dealing with organizational and operational challenges. This article provides a brief background of WFXs and common fires issues, outlines the context of the 101st DIVARTY's training scenarios, and summarizes four important lessons learned as best practices.

Warfighter Exercise Background and Commonly Observed Issues

WFXs are distributed, multiechelon, and multicomponent events focused on training mission command to brigade-, division-, and corps-level commanders and staffs in unified land operations scenarios. (1) These scenarios focus on mission-essential tasks and core warfighting competencies using an adjustable operating environment against a hybrid, near-peer adversary in an austere theater of operations.

The U.S. Army Combined Arms Center Mission Command Training Program (MCTP) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, is the principal combat training center for mission command training and hosts WFXs. (2) Observer/controller/trainers are subject-matter experts who coach, teach, and mentor participating staffs, while MCTP senior mentors coach commanders during the training events.

Experience has shown that MCTP trainers and mentors consistently note common issues experienced by units they observe. For example, across the warfighting functions, most issues stem from challenges associated with integrating and synchronizing division efforts at the operational level of war. Divisions typically struggle to delineate fights within the deep-close-security operational framework, to synchronize combined arms maneuver, and to effectively target. They also consistently underestimate sustainment needs and insufficiently plan protection efforts. Focusing on fires, MCTP observers frequently note that DIVARTYs labor to weight the main effort with artillery assets, conduct insufficient planning, and produce limited assessments during the decide, detect, deliver, and assess (D3A) targeting process. (3)

In contrast, The 101st DIVARTY minimally experienced these deficiencies during its two WFXs. This allowed the organization to focus instead on improving its collective fires skills and developing techniques needed to support the division.

101st DIVARTY Training Scenarios

The 101st DIVARTY participated in WFXs 1505 and 16-02. The first occurred in support of the 36th Infantry Division (Texas National Guard) less than eight months after the DIVARTY's activation. This event served as the 101st DIVARTY's validation exercise. It also provided an opportunity to test the DIVARTY's modularity by having it serve as the force fires headquarters (FFHQ) for a National Guard division in accordance with the Army Total Force initiative. (4)

DIVARTY's second exercise supported the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and was the first time it fully integrated within its parent division as the FFHQ.

Both scenarios replicated a decisive-action environment in a fictional country. The primary adversary possessed near-peer capabilities (i.e., combat systems with capabilities similar to or better than our own) and presented itself as a hybrid threat combining conventional and irregular forces. …

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