Academic journal article Military Review

Training for Decisive Action

Academic journal article Military Review

Training for Decisive Action

Article excerpt

In traditional Western military thought, decisive action refers to massing combat power at the right place and time for achieving success. The 1910 Field Service Regulations of the United States Army, the doctrine of its day, states, "decisive results are obtained only by the offensive," and commanders will "make a powerful effort at the decisive point" (1) A decisive action would be the offensive effort--the main attack--that would win the battle. A decisive point would be understood as the place and time the main attack would occur. Commanders seized the initiative and sought out a decisive battle that would destroy their enemy's ability to resist.

In contemporary joint doctrine, a decisive point is "a geographic place, key event, critical factor, or function that, when acted upon, allows commanders to gain a marked advantage over an adversary or contribute materially to achieving success" (2) While this construct allows for more than combat operations at specific geographic locations, modern planners tend to use the idea of decisive points traditionally, to map lines of operation that synchronize actions.

In 2012, Army Doctrine Reference Publication (ADRP) 3-0, Unified Land Operations, modified the foundational concept of what it means to be decisive in modern war. The Army now defines decisive action not as the massing of offensive combat power at the right place and time but as "the continuous, simultaneous combinations of offensive, defensive, and stability or defense support of civil authorities tasks" (3) Simultaneous combinations of tasks reflect a broader understanding of modern operations, which are not a sequence of set-piece linear battles with clear termination criteria. Instead, modern warfare involves flowing combinations of combined arms maneuver and wide area security against amorphous threats. Therefore, Army exercises need to prepare agile and adaptive leaders capable of combining offensive, defensive, and stability tasks successfully.

This article discusses ways the Army can provide training that ensures units are ready to conduct unified land operations through decisive action.

The Right Operational Framework for Combining Tasks

Army unit leaders start by describing operations in terms of time, space, purpose, and resources. Consistent with Army operational doctrine and the "FORSCOM Command Training Guidance (CTG)-Fiscal Year 2016," Army combat training centers (CTCs) are using the "Decisive Action Training Environment" (sometimes known as DATE) to replicate complex operating environments involving high-intensity conflict and hybrid threats. (4) This program offers complex, realistic training scenarios that require brigade combat teams (BCTs) to integrate limited resources such as combined arms battalions, aviation, information collection, information operations, and engineers. (5) In particular, a BCT executing an attack must ensure the integration of key enablers to identify disruption zones and main defensive belts in order to array forces for relative advantage. A BCT must synchronize and integrate information collection and joint fires to attrit an enemy's ability to increase its defensive posture.

Simultaneous to the integration of key enablers in support of the attack, a BCT also must execute offensive or defensive tasks along with stability tasks to secure the populace. The simultaneity of these tasks is essential for sustained situational awareness and shared understanding of the environment.

I (contributing author William Shoemate) served as an observer at the Army National Training Center (NTC) from June 2014 to July 2015. During my experience gained over ten training rotations, I found that units applying the deep-close-security operational framework conducted decisive action more effectively during training. Army doctrine encourages leaders to establish an operational framework for each operation but does not dictate a specific framework. …

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